Wednesday, February 25, 2015

One Foot Back to Counter It

There are things I say to my therapist, not because I necessarily believe them, but because I want to believe them. That if I say them out loud, allow them to resonate, to bounce off the walls of the small, warm converted 2-storey walk-up where she works, then they will magically turn themselves to truth.

One of those things is "grief is not linear."

In my logical brain, I know that. I know that it is as true as anything that's ever been said. That you don't just "get better", with all the days lined up in neat rows, waiting for the "5 stages of grief" to tick by. But I can't help but feel that some days are setbacks, that I am not moving forward, that I am stuck.

I hadn't cried in weeks. I was showing up for work, if not on time, then at least close, did my job, and did it reasonably well. I was taking the bus again, and I went to trivia night, and made dinner, and paid bills on time, and did everything that, just a few weeks earlier, had seemed nearly impossible. And then, easily, delicately, like someone tugging at a loose string on a beloved sweater, it all neatly fell apart. On Monday morning, I stood staring through the front window, mud room door closed behind me, and I could. Not. Move.

I mean that quite literally. The simplest act- putting one foot in front of the other, walking down the porch and trodding the 6 blocks to the bus stop - seemed absolutely insurmountable. I could feel myself growing hotter and hotter, the weight of my winter boots around my ankles, the knitted hat my grandmother had made, lying itchy on my head, and yet I stood there, dull, doughy face peering back at me in the hall mirror. I envisioned myself picking up my purse and unlocking the door, but in reality I just stood, staring. After 5 minutes or so of this, I said aloud to no one, in a voice that sounded too small to be mine, "I don't think I can."

The Little Engine that Panicked.

I slowly took off my mitts, my boots, let the hat fall from my head, and went back into the house. I sent an email to work that blamed my absence on a physical illness instead, too cowardly to admit I'd been made catatonic by something deep inside my head, and too weary to put up with the sympathetic looks I'd get once I slunk back into the office.

I wasted the entire day in a forgettably boring fashion, watching YouTube videos of the Oscars, eating whatever was about to go bad in the fridge, and annoying the dog. I told TB, who was sweet and sympathetic as we made dinner. I got a good night's sleep and had a hot shower and went through my morning routine as normal the next day, hoping that I'd at least be able to make it into a cab tomorrow, if not the bus stop. But as I slipped an orange into my totebag, I heard a noise. A high-pitched wailing tone that was half mechanical, half animal. It was coming from me. 

I'd heard the idea before that some moments take us out of ourselves, that we feel as though we're watching ourselves from above, like we're in a movie. Like bolting upright when you've had a nightmare, I always thought that was just a cliche. But I get it now. I could see myself brace both hands on the dining room table, I saw my face crumple in on itself as the first droplets of my turns-out-it's-not-waterproof mascara hit my cheeks. I watched as my legs buckled, and my palms slapped the dirty wooden floor and my tears and drool made splashes on the cracks in between the hardwood. And I heard everything. The worst noise I've ever made, and one of the worst I've ever heard. I never fully understood what it was to 'keen' before, but this had to have been it. A rhythmic, rocking, shrill explosion that seemed to come simultaneously from my chest, my throat, and the top of my head. It sounded like some kind of alert, or alarm, though with no logical course of action. Less of a "Fire! Everybody get out!" and more of a "Let us all remark on the utter unfairness that fire destruction can cause!". Like ADT if it was run by Sartre.

The dog was totally perplexed. Here I was, about to give her breakfast, with maybe a biscuit if she did her business outside, and now I'd decided to eschew all that in favour of lying on the floor like a simpleton. She was not impressed, racing back and forth between her bowl and my pathetic display of surrender, trying to encourage me to pick up where I'd left off.

And with a shuddering breath, just like that, it was over. The skies cleared and I was back. And I slowly picked myself up, dusted myself off (seriously, we have to figure out some kind of chore wheel, we're slobs), and went back in the kitchen to feed the dog. I glanced at the clock on the stove as I walked by it - the whole thing had taken me less than 5 minutes. I may not be good at managing my emotions, but my God, I'm efficient.

Today has been better. I've had a few close moments, but no tears today, and I'm trying to go out and meet some people for drinks in order to do something that doesn't involve hibernating in front of a space heater or staring blankly at the myriad of glowing screens I possess. And hopefully the weeks and months ahead will be filled with more moments of normalcy and pleasantness than not.

It's not a step back, I know it isn't. But maybe it's a bit of a kick. A gentle tap of the toe saying "Hey, hotshot, this thing is bigger than you. And don't you forget it."

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