Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not Worth Watching

Every morning as my fellow workers and I open up the proprietary software program from which most of us navigate our work  we are greeted by a little inspirational saying for the day.  Sort of a thumbnail version of those posters you often see in countless corporate offices across the country.  Occasionally, our CFO and IT team who work together to choose them will get creative or funny.  One morning during the playoffs it was directed at me, and they had found a picture of a face painted, bewigged Steeler fan to use.  A week later, they used a Jets fan since one of the department heads is a huge fan.  But, for the most part, they are fairly standard inspirational fare.  Probably by this time most of the staff are sort of numb to their message, but it is visually something interesting to look at everyday, so your eye is drawn to it regardless.  Friday's read, "Welcome Cheryl!  One day your life will flash before your eyes.  Make sure it's worth watching."

Holy cow, you're kidding me, right?  I think to myself, realizing that this is a general message that someone pulled out of some list of inane inspirational snippets, but still somehow managing to be offended right out of the gate.  Really, I think to myself?  You really think, having watched my daughter slowly destroy herself over nearly a decade and my other daughter nearly follow her down the rabbit hole, that I can ever look back at my life and want to watch it?  To take any pride in it?  I've destroyed so much and built nothing.  But then I take a breath and realize it's just what it is:  some little saying.  Sticks and stones, right?  And this isn't even really directed at me, it's just a random saying.  Thin skin has always been an affliction from which I suffer.  So, I take another breath and the dark clouds part, and it's all good.  I can almost feel the skin grow a little thicker, at least momentarily, and take some satisfaction in it.

Then I take it a step further.  Why not?  Here's another stupid little oft-used saying, "Today is the first day of the rest of your life."  Why can't I just decide to cut the chord of the past?  Not forget it, but forgive myself for it (you've heard me mention this before) and move on to whatever is ahead of me in life.  Why can't I take what I've experienced and turn it around and do something noble with it?

Well, that sounds good in theory, but the last couple of weeks have been all about trying to keep it together.  Easier said than done suddenly, so I'm not sure I can step up to the lofty goals of making my life one that's worth watching.  People won't understand after all this time has past why I'm struggling.  My husband doesn't understand, there's no question of that.  I'm not sure I do.  It's been over two years, and I functioned fairly well, all things considered, in that time.  Sure I exploded my relationship with my sister-in-law.  Sure I uprooted us and pulled us across country.  Sure I lost it a time or two at work when people looked at me wrong or did something off track.  Sure I cried plenty and have poured my heart out in this blog many a time.  But, I did what I needed to do and kept things going.  Now suddenly, just existing is a little too hard.  I wonder how my dad, witness to horrors far worse than anything I will ever know, would react to such weakness.  I think about the woman who told me a year ago to "get over it" and how pitiful she would think me.  Yet, here I am, panicked, exhausted and very alone.  Not the stuff greatness is made of.

I don't know if this is typical of the grief process or not.  Maybe it's a delayed reaction in my case because there was so much to push toward initially:  caring for Mother, then plotting and deploying the move.  Now that I'm here, ironically in a place where I find great joy, my body finally is taking its time to freak out.  Maybe the genetics that pushed my daughter toward an eating disorder and surely lives somewhere inside of me is finally bubbling to the surface.  Maybe the weight of the financial burden is what's crushing my chest and causing the problem.  Maybe it's all of it.  Whatever the cause, I'm struggling at the moment.  Panic attacks swell up easily, a few times a day minimum.  And not just a flutter.  The full blown kind.  One knocked me off my feet the other day.  And I mean that literally.  It hit me like a punch, knocking the breath out of me and then it felt like an ogre was standing on top of me, not allowing any air to get through.  I was so oxygen deprived for a minute, my brain was exploding in white hot flashes of pain.  Lovely.  About ten minutes later it was done.  And that was when I realized what it was.  They start out in the stomach and seem to rise up into the chest, crushing the air out of it and not allowing any more in.  I can feel them when they start and sometimes stop them from taking completely over, but if something triggers one - like bad news on the pending Texas house sale, or a work issue - all I can do is hang on for dear life.

I can't tell you honestly that I'm a total stranger to panic attacks.  I'm not.  I had a bad period about nine years ago when we finally caught on that Kelsey's crisis was not "just a phase".  My husband and I were not in sync yet, Marissa was beginning to act out in reaction to the trauma, and Kelsey...well, she was most likely scared to death, but it was manifesting as anger, and that's all I saw, not the pain underneath it.  Think Linda Blair in The Exorcist and you've got a pretty good picture of what family therapy sessions were like initially.  Having your own flesh and blood be so angry and hateful toward you is hard as a parent, especially at first when you don't see it for what it is.  Realizing that they are in a real and genuine crisis that you don't understand or know how to fix is far, far worse.  I couldn't quite believe this was happening to us initially, and when I finally realized that yes indeed it was, I didn't take the realization all that well.  It took a couple of months, but I finally grasped what was happening to me and reasoned through what to do about it.  They dissipated after that.  The despair didn't necessarily go away, but the strong physical reaction to it did.  I'm hoping that's the case here.

Yet, I've been to this rodeo before, so you'd think I'd know how to ride it out of the gate.  Not so.  They come, they go, they come around again.  They're forever fluttering nearby, waiting for something, anything really, to go amiss to rise like a ghost from its grave and smash the air right on out of my lungs.  Nope, I realize, this is not the stuff worth watching at all.  That is, unless you like a good train wreck.

No comments:

Post a Comment