Death Raises So Many Questions

My grandmother (mom’s mother) passed away on Saturday at the age of 94. She’s been sick for many years and confined to a wheelchair, but no one ever heard her complain. Her husband, my grandfather, passed away about two years ago. He was a bastard. The things he used to do to his children and wife are horrific. Yet, she stayed with him until he died. They were catholic, so she didn’t believe in divorce. This is something that has frustrated and angered me for a long time. She lived in Portugal, so I didn’t get to see her very often. But she had a special place in my heart.

She was always smiling and laughing, even when she was in pain. She’d ask me tons of questions, and was always interested in my life and what I was saying. Her English wasn’t great, so communicating with her wasn’t easy. I didn’t always understand what she was asking or saying, but she was so patient and never got annoyed. My mom told me that when I was a kid, I was convinced my grandmother was an angel. I was shy around her and didn’t speak to her, but would stare at her in fascination.

Two of my uncles lived with her. She took care of them because they were unable to take care of themselves. One of my uncles was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and has a brain injury apparently caused by my mom’s father. The other is Autistic. They aren’t young anymore either. So I don’t know what’s going to happen to them now that she’s gone. I have another uncle in Portugal who can help them (he’s independent), but I’m not sure whether he’ll be able to take care of them the way they need. He’s also autistic, on the “high functioning” end apparently, but has a lot of his own struggles to deal with.

Since I got the news about my grandmother on Saturday, I’ve had a lot of questions running through my mind. About life. About death. One that I’m really curious about is how does someone who has been through so much and has hardly ever had a “break” from shit, make it to that age? What makes these people so strong and resilient? Was it that she became stronger through the years and bounced back over and over again, is it genetic, or is it (and this is what I suspect) that she had all those people to take care of, and that’s what kept her hanging on? I don’t think there’s a simple answer, or that I’ll ever really know.

I can’t see myself living for that long. Most days I feel like my days are already numbered and coming to an end soon. My mom feels the same way I do. Throughout the years she has mentioned how she feels she won’t be around much longer. Whenever she makes it to another birthday she’s genuinely surprised. This has caused a lot of distress in me when she’d talk this way, but on the other hand I also understand.

We’re still alive though, we made it through so far. We don’t get to know when our time will end. But we can continue putting one foot in front of the other and do what we can to make the most of the life we’ve got.

Of course, I’m sad that we lost my grandmother, one of the strongest woman I’ve ever known. But I’m mostly grateful that she’s no longer in pain. That she’s at peace. The angel can finally rest.

heartscape

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Finally Feeling It

I spent some time with my uncle yesterday. Since he was diagnosed with cancer, I’ve been feeling pretty numb about it. I have had fleeting moments of anger and disbelief though. Driving home after seeing him yesterday, a deep sadness came over me. The kind of sadness you feel everywhere inside your body and that just sits there. I couldn’t cry. Just feel it as it took my breath away. Such a deep pain with nowhere to go.

It scared me when I saw him yesterday. He’s lost so much weight, I don’t know how he has the strength to even stand. We went for a short walk on the beach and then sat there for a little while until he got too tired. When we got back to his place I only stayed for a few minutes so that he could get some rest. He told me that I’m the only person he looks forward to seeing and that he can really talk to. I’m glad that he feels like he can talk to me, and that he phoned me the day he was feeling at his worst. He doesn’t need people telling him at every turn what to do and what not to do. How to feel. Which is what the rest of the family does. He’s got doctors that do that. He needs family who will listen with no judgement. Who will be there for him. I don’t always know what to say. Most of the time I don’t say anything. I just listen. And apparently that’s exactly why he feels he can be open and honest with me.

We have a special bond. We always have had, even during those times where I felt far from him. The time it felt like I had lost him. I feel like I have him back again, and the thought of losing him forever, terrifies me. A part of me wants to push him away. To not feel the fear, the pain. But I also want to hold tightly onto him. I love him so damn much, and hate seeing how much he’s suffering. I wish I could just take it away from him. But I can’t. All I can do is be there for him. It’s so hard and painful though.

The one person I really want to talk to about this is my previous therapist, A. But I can’t. She knew the relationship I have with him, and was there when he moved out and I was having a hard time with that. I’m missing her even more than I usually do. I’m aching to hear her voice and see her face again. For a hug from her.

Tonight, the sadness is still there. But I can cry now. It’s got somewhere to go.

The Good News And The Bad News

“Which do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?” I’ve always hated it when someone has asked me that question. The way I see it is that essentially the same thing is going to happen. You’re still going to hear both the good and the bad, so I don’t think there’s a “best” order in which to receive news. The question just seems pointless.

Life itself doesn’t ask us to choose. And that’s what happened just recently. Since completing the website of a restaurant, I’ve been waiting to hear back from the owner about possibly doing his other website. Also a restaurant, but a more popular and well-known one. A couple of weeks ago I sent him an email following up on his experience of the new website with a subtle “reminder” that when he’s ready to proceed with the next website, to let me know. When we first started working together, he had told me that if it goes well, he might ask me to design his other restaurants website. So it wasn’t a definite thing. He’s happy with the website I did for him, and told me that he’ll speak to the other owner about the other website. The other owner contacted me about a week later and we arranged a meeting. On Thursday evening, he let me know that he accepted my business proposal and will be making the deposit, so I can go ahead with the website. Good news!

Then last night I heard that my uncle, the one who lived with us for a while, has lung cancer. For the past week he’s been extremely sick, and would pop in at the office every now and then before going to the hospital for tests. He’s been struggling with his health for a while now, and every time I’d see him, he’d look worse and worse. Bad news!

I’m going to go visit him at home this afternoon, and I’m nervous. What do I say to him? How am I supposed to “act” around him now? I kind of don’t feel anything at the moment other than nervous, and I don’t actually want to go see him. I’m very awkward about things like this. My grandmother passed away from this very disease and I hated what it did to her. I never wanted to have to go through that again. But I know it’s not about me, it’s about him. But I’m still involved, and don’t quite know how to deal with it. I helped my grandmother when she was going through this, and it was torture. This makes me feel extremely guilty and ashamed, because I feel what right do I have to feel anything negative or to think about how it affects me, when they are the actual ones suffering?

It’s a long weekend, so no work on Monday, but I’ll be keeping busy with my own work on the website. I’m glad I got this job, and especially more so now. So I think this time, receiving the good news first actually made a bit of a difference. But again, life didn’t give me a choice.

Why I Wish He Would Understand

I arrived in a state at my therapy session last week. It had been a crap day, with way too much sensory stimulation. There’s building going on next to my dad’s shop, and the store was in chaos… One of the really busy days. Phones ringing, everyone running up and down, loud voices, etc. I just couldn’t work, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t do much of anything but listen to my music with my headphones on and try to calm my nervous system down.

It ended up with me and my dad fighting again, because he couldn’t understand why I can’t just ignore everything and focus on work. I tried to explain to him again that I struggle to drown out sounds and the constant movement (which makes me nauseous as well) and I seem to lose the ability to use my brain for tasks. I would have thought that he would get this by now as it’s always been a problem for me, since childhood, and a source of lots of fights, tears, threats, etc. I was struggling to explain it to him in a coherent manner while in the state I was in, because for some reason even my language and speech are affected during these times of a sensory overload meltdown. Add in the frustration I was feeling with him not understanding or seeming to listen, and me being unable to communicate properly. I hated him so much right then and was glad when he left the office. I was done talking. I just couldn’t anymore. I was exhausted, yet still extremely riled up.

On a Wednesday I usually leave for therapy straight after work. As I was driving there that day, I couldn’t focus. I felt disoriented and confused on the road. For example, which lane I’m supposed to be in, road signs, other cars. See what I mean about my brain not functioning the way it should sometimes? I’m just glad I got to the clinic without any incident. And that the waiting area was empty and quiet.

I was still highly worked up in the session, and I can’t actually remember much of what went on. I do remember though my therapist asking at some point why I need my dad to understand. That question was on my mind for days afterward. Logically, I know he doesn’t understand and he probably never will, and sometimes I can accept that, but days that like one, I just can’t.

Why do wish he would understand, or at least try to? It would save both of us (and anyone else involved) a lot of drama. Because maybe then he’ll stop fighting with me over the same stuff, which just triggers me and makes me feel even more overwhelmed and less able to cope with the normal day-to-day of living and stress that comes with it. And he won’t have to be on the receiving end of a meltdown (or in his view, a tantrum). Case in point: On Tuesday my dad wanted me to go buy lunch. He wanted me to go to a place I absolutely hate. A fish shop. My first instinct when he asked me was to blurt out “but that place smells horrible!” before I could even realize what I was saying and stop myself. Usually this is the point where he will either crap me out for my “attitude” or “laziness”, or the more extreme version, fly into an instant rage. But this time he didn’t do either of those things. He simply replied “I know”, in a tone of voice that wasn’t threatening or triggering. When that happened, I felt myself relax, and willing to handle the few minutes of nausea I’d experience while ordering. That moment, where I felt validated in a sense, just confirmed why I believe it will be beneficial for the both of us if he would at least try to understand.

So yes, I went to that place to buy them food, and even though I was only inside for a minute or two while ordering (there wasn’t a queue, thank goodness), my clothes and hair smelled of the place. Fish and old oil. I had to double wash my hair and I don’t want to see that jersey and those pants for a while, even though they’ve now been washed. But, I survived. My dad’s words didn’t stop me from experiencing those nasty “side effects”, but it helped regulate my feelings toward actually having to go through it.

I know people can’t truly “get” things if they don’t experience it themselves, but relationships would be so much better off if we all just at least try to listen to one another and understand where someone is coming from. Why they react in certain ways. And yes, I know that applies to me with regards to my dad as well.

Writing and the Lack of it

I just realized that I haven’t written any new posts this month, and it surprises me that I’m still getting new followers. Had another one just a little while ago. Thank you, and welcome, to my new followers.

In the online world, and having witnessed a couple of my favourite blogs remain inactive for months now, it’s easy to start in with assumptions. Especially considering the topic of mental health/illness that we write about. Questions such as “Are they alive? Are they okay?” run through my mind. So for those of you who have been part of my blog for a while, I felt an update is in order.

Life has been a bit of a roller-coaster. I have a lot more demands on my time from both a work (mostly this) and personal standpoint. I’m dealing with a difficult client and an increasingly difficult father. I swear he gets worse with age. I seem to have been given the role of “fixer” again. “When things fall apart, let’s call on Rayne. She owes me anyway. Fuck her boundaries.” My goal is still to get out of this place before the end of the year. Just hope I survive until then.

Because of all this, I’ve had to take as much time to myself to do other things as I possibly can. I’ve only seen a friend once this month so far, as I just want to be alone when I have spare time. I feel all “socialed” out. I’m overwhelmed and stressed. But I’m hanging in there.

Another reason I’ve been quiet is that with weekly therapy sessions now, I don’t feel the need to write and process on my blog as much as I used to. I still process between sessions of course, but I tend to take those thoughts directly to my therapist as it’s still relatively “fresh” in my mind. She’s been really lovely, and is a great therapist. Of course I still miss A (my previous therapist- the best ever), but I know I made the right decision, so that helps.

Please know that even though I might not post as much as I used to, I won’t ever close this blog down. It’s too precious to me. Last week I spent some time reading certain old posts to get some insight into something specific, and it really helped. So there’s a lot of value in having this space.

It’s been a long and busy day, so I’m going to unwind by working on my new puzzle. If that’s not mindfulness, I don’t know what is.

Life

The writing block I’ve been experiencing has lifted. It happened on Thursday after my therapy session. I had this desire to write a poem, and it just flowed so naturally again. And damn did it feel good.

During our session I could actually feel some mental block crumbling. I managed to express myself relatively well, and talk about some of those things I haven’t been able to even write about yet.

There are a few things I want to write about that I hadn’t been able to. I still have processing to do with those topics, so I’ll definitely be writing as I get around to it.

As most of you already know, I’ve been having a hard time since stopping the medication (Lamotrigine) that’s been serving as a mood stabilizer. I don’t believe that the decline in my mental health has just been due to that. There were other factors involved as well. I think that just made these other things harder to deal with.

My step-brother ran away from home again. Once again without so much as a hint to me that he was going to be doing that. I’m disappointed and hurt because he promised me after the last time that he would tell me when he’s planning to pull that stunt again, and let me know that he’s safe. But he didn’t. And once again, his phone was off for a few days. He eventually let us know that he’s moving out. He’s living with a girl friend and her uncle. He asked me whether I would help him take some of his stuff to his new place, so at least I know where he’s living (I’ve promised not to give my dad the address though). This whole situation has caused a lot of family conflict and issues. Things are tense here at home at times, and plain weird at other times. My heart sinks every time I walk past my brother’s room and remember that he’s not here anymore. I’m going to miss seeing him every day. Things just aren’t the same without him.

I’m also worried about my eldest younger sister, who my mom is convinced is back on drugs again. All the signs are apparently there. It’s hard living so far away from my mom and sisters. It’s frustrating, especially at times like these.

Then there’s Jasmine. I haven’t seen her again since the time I wrote about in my post “Elizabeth, and the Dilemma“. I’ve sent her messages from time to time asking how she’s doing, and letting her know that I’m still around and here for her. It takes her a few days to respond. Last week I sent her a message saying that I think it’s about time that we get together and talk this whole thing through. She agreed to meet on Friday, but then sent me a text telling me that we won’t be meeting up anymore. It’s Monday, and I still haven’t responded to that message. This is the first time I’m “ignoring” someone. I’m angry. Hurt. At this stage, I’m not even sure whether it’s a good idea for us to remain friends. That maybe it will be better to just cut ties completely. That idea hurts. But it feels better than this feeling of being in limbo, and not knowing when or what is happening or going to happen, and knowing that there’s a possibility that she’ll end our friendship anyway. I mean, if she’s not even able to meet up with me for coffee, how’s it going to be when she meets Elizabeth for the first time? Is it going to be awkward? Probably. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t want to do anything I might regret, so I’ve decided to rather just step back. I’m not going to reach out to her anymore. The next move (if there is one) will be hers. I’m done.

Another little update. I’ve started a new medication, Dopaquel (Quetiapine). So far so good. No side effects as far as I’m aware, other than the obvious drowsiness that this med is known for. I take it in the evening’s, and it helps me sleep… It’s glorious. I’m hoping this one will be it for me.

Safe Travels – Part One

On Wednesday I got back from my week-long trip to see my mom and sisters. Annoyingly, I’m still recuperating from it.

I had been looking forward to this trip since it was booked. I was counting down the days. Sometimes even the hours. Last Tuesday, after coming back from group, I started to feel unsettled. “Tomorrow is the day”. I don’t know why I had shifted into that almost panicked mode.

Packing for a vacation always overwhelms me for some reason. That Tuesday, it seemed even worse. I was so anxious, and even emotional. I cried through most of it. What was going on? I had no idea why I was feeling the way I was. In our session on Monday my therapist told me that she’ll let her other clients get away with “I don’t know”, but not me. Apparently I’m insightful. But sometimes I really don’t know. And this was one of those times. Maybe it will come to me at some point. That happens quite often, so maybe I can’t get away with “I don’t know” after all.

I hate airports. I despise them. Even more than I do crowded shopping malls (I try to go during the week when most people are at work). Those are places where I’m most likely to get panic attacks (lasting either from a few minutes to over 20 minutes sometimes). So, in preparation, I took one of my magic anxiety killing pills, and after that, I felt so much better. I had used some mindfulness and breathing exercises before taking it though, hoping that it would be enough. But it wasn’t. I lasted 20 minutes with that. But at least I tried. I got through the whole airport and flying thing pretty smoothly. I used to love flying. But when I got into a relationship with my ex, I started becoming as anxious and paranoid as she was every time we had to step foot on a plane. But this time, and alone, my old love of flying was back! My favourite part is the take off and landing. It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush.

On my way from the airport to my mom’s place, I had to go pick up my youngest half-sister, who lives quite a while away from my mom. She was going to be spending a few days with us. I also popped in to see my eldest younger half-sister, who was at work, so I couldn’t spend much time with her. To me they’re just my sisters (there’s no half in there for me). By the time I got to my mom’s place, I was exhausted. As I walked through the door, my mom was busy with something. She looked up and saw me, and her eyes just lit up. She also seemed to do a double take, not sure whether I was real. I hugged her tighter than I ever had before. She looked so happy!

Throughout my stay there, I slept on a small blow up mattress, and my youngest sister slept on the couch. Sleeping in the same room with any one of my sisters is a crazy experience. My mom’s place only has one bedroom, so we slept in the lounge. I didn’t get much sleep while I was there. I struggle to sleep in a new environment, and add to that a young sister who doesn’t get the value of sleep. I’m a very light sleeper. After having her try to keep me awake as long as possible, I would finally go to sleep. But she’s so noisy, and every time she moved, the couch creaked way too loud, in my opinion. The curtains also couldn’t close, so it was too bright in there with all the street lights. Not a very good environment for inducing sleep. But I survived. Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I like waking up to peace and quiet in the mornings, while I drink my coffee. There was no chance of that happening here. Imagine being semi-asleep and having your mom and sister yelling at one another before you can even get your eyes open. Those two can’t be together for more than a day, or they’re at each other’s throats. They know exactly how to push one another’s buttons. Now here I was, stuck with this for four days. Burying my head under the pillow never sounded (and felt) so good.

A lot happened during the time with my mom. The unfortunate thing is that I barely got one moment alone with her. Both my mom and sister vying for my attention. I didn’t know which way to go. Which way is up? It was exhausting. My mom’s 23-year-old boyfriend (I called him daddy, that had him laughing for a while), was there in the evenings and the weekend, so we were never entirely alone. The only uninterrupted time my mom and I had was an hour before I went to bed on my last night there. I had taken my youngest sister home by that time. I adore my sisters, but the youngest one is a handful! We had our own “salon day” at my mom’s place though. She coloured and styled my hair, and we even played around with make-up. That was a nice bonding experience.

It was a busy week. Driving back and forth to go see my eldest younger sister, and a bunch of other outings that made me so sick of driving. But I don’t see my family every day, and it was nice to be able to do those things for, and with, them, so it was worth it. I struggled a lot that week with disconnection though. I “felt” numb quite often.

On the Saturday evening, we went out for dinner with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and uncle. He’s Greek, she’s Portuguese. They’re constantly fighting, and it’s fascinating (and extremely funny) listening to them, as they switch between English and each of their languages! It makes my head spin just thinking about it. It’s always fun spending time with them though. Oh, and they took me to a bookstore, and bought me two new books! I’m obsessed with books. I got “Into the Heart of Mindfulness” and “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion”. The first one was recommended to me by my former OT, so when I saw it I just knew I had to get it.

My mom was emotional and cried a lot during my stay. Sometimes over small things (sound familiar?). As far as I can remember, I’ve only seen her cry twice in my life. And now suddenly it’s almost a daily thing. Apparently it’s been like this for months already, so I’m worried about her. I wanted to hug or hold her during those times, but it’s like there’s an invisible wall between us, and I can’t get myself to do that. The most I could do was put my hand on her shoulder or back for a few seconds, and even that felt awkward. I can’t remember her ever holding me either. Of course hugging her hello and goodbye is easy. But other than those times, that’s not the case. It’s still a great source of sadness for me. I don’t know why it’s so hard with her, when I find it so easy to be that shoulder when someone else needs it, including my sisters.

I still have more to write about this trip, but I’ll rather split it up into two parts. I don’t want to write anymore tonight. Writing has been hard for me lately. Wanting to write, but not able to start. An internal battle of sorts. But now it seems like I’ve broken through that wall.