Dawg is panting at my feet, and a soft, warm, middle-of-the-day breeze is trying to find it's way into the room. Even though the temperature is supposed to hit 90+ today, the air, it carries a coolness off the Puget Sound waters as it travels to spread it's welcomed wings across our little Island, and it is cooling the room I am in, providing a nice, cozy temperature. This morning, the first thing I heard was the hum of the ceiling fan, wobbly, just a little off balance, and I smiled because I often curse the thing the rest of the eleven months as I stare up at it in bed, motionless, and wonder why we even have it. Ahhhh... we have it for those two or so weeks in the summer that actually feel like summer. Hot August. I want it.
Jeremy told me this morning that I am due for a word heavy, deeper post. Honestly, my mind is numb and lazy, as Sarah and I have had one wedding reception and two other weddings to shoot in the past eight days. Throw in another summer bug that took me down for two days, and that has been my week, so I'm not feeling particularly wordy, but have been gratefully busy.
What I am reflecting on, is how I am functioning. I am taking a step back, and looking at my life from the outside looking in, and quietly pondering how I got here.
After Vanessa died, the two years that followed, was pure hell. I slipped into the rabbit hole that swallows souls, branches ripping it apart, as you fall to your death. I couldn't leave the house. Answer the phone. Do much of anything except sob and pray my way to therapy once a week, and if I could, drag myself to my job with my mom at the Pharmacy. My broken heart lay in pieces, and my mind went somewhere else as the reality set in, and I wouldn't have it. My head didn't feel normal. I couldn't think, or read more than two sentences in a book, or focus on anything for more than five minutes. As time went on, things got worse, and I became severely agoraphobic. For some reason, being near people stressed me out, and not just a little, but, big time. Anything that had to do with facing the public, forget it. I would have these terrible panic attacks doing normal, everyday tasks. It got so bad, that I could not go anywhere by myself. Or drive. I was already dead inside, but at the same time, I was dying. My mind felt like it had short circuited, and has never felt "normal" since. I keep it well hidden now, but to be very honest, everyday things feel complicated, and I get through them, but it takes tremendous effort. I feel broken still, that part of me, unrepairable. That's what happens I suppose, after a life altering event. You are never the same, so you have to let yourself go.
For some reason, going to the grocery store stressed me out the most. Carrying on with the mundane everyday things were all day consuming. For months, just getting the dishes washed, or folding a hamper full of laundry was an all day affair. When I went out in the daylight, my mind literally buzzed, and things didn't look real. I felt crazy, or that I was going crazy, and maybe I was. My baby was gone, and I just couldn't process that in my mind, body, or soul. I drove my therapist nuts, begging her, negotiating, as if she could magically bring her back. I was just not in this reality, and it took a very long time to slowly realize and accept, that no matter what I did, she wasn't coming back, but back then, I didn't and wouldn't believe that.
It wasn't until Grace was nine months old, that I had a significant breakthrough. Her early infancy was just as black for me, as I wandered my way through the darkness, but now with a baby in tow. I had talked myself into going to our local Baby Group, where moms with other children around the same age gather and connect. That was big for me. Huge. It took all of me, and then some, to drag myself there, and to share a bit, and I told myself over and over until I was blue in the face that it was for Grace's benefit. She needed me to push myself out of hiding. I almost quit after the first meeting, but reluctantly went to the second one. And then the third, but always had one eye on the door. One afternoon, on our way home after one of the baby groups, feeling a push of confidence and courage, I pulled into the Thriftway parking lot. I hadn't been to the grocery store by myself in over three years.
I turned off the ignition and sat. I only needed one thing. "Just go grab it." I told myself. "Do it." I would have Grace in my arms, which grounded me, and her babbling in the back gave me the extra boost I needed to frantically unhook her from her car seat and bolt in before I totally lost my nerve.
My heart was pounding and by breath was steady as I counted my steps to keep calm as my feet found a good pace. I wasn't puking, or thinking I was going to die. I wasn't screaming. I wasn't hyperventilating, but almost. I grabbed what I needed, and stood in the checkout line thinking "I am doing this!!! OMG, I am DOING this!!! I bought my item with trembling hands and left the store. The whole trip in and out lasted under five minutes, but I did it! I sobbed the whole way home, as I had just done something I was sure I would never do again. It was a huge moment for me, even if it sounds corny and lame, and I'm a little embarrassed for having shared this, but, too late now.
Since then, bit by bit, like piecing together a puzzle, I was able through family support, love, grace, and a whole lot of prayer, to do what may come easy for most people. Function. Even though it feels more like I am piecing together a Jenga puzzle, I am grateful for the mundane, and feel extreme moments where I look to God and say thank you, that now I am able to walk through the grocery store, drive my car, wash my dishes in under an hour, cook dinner, build a business, talk on the phone, go to dinner with friends.
Almost ten years later, I am standing in shoes I thought were completely impossible.
Oh, God, thank you, and let me keep standing.
Pieces put back together