Mourning my Mornings

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I’ve started to wonder why people fear the night and find comfort during the day. For the past weeks the dawn of a new day holds more terrors for me than the quiet solitude of twilight.  It had not always been so. I used to find dusk so forlorn and desolate, the slow goodbye of the sun sinking into the pallid blanket of the evening. Nowadays i find twilight restful and peaceful, the demise of the sun bringing with it the soothing comfort of anonymity, of escape. The darkness is welcome. Shadows hide a face swollen with tears shed in the stark blinding brightness of daylight and camouflage a heart wracked with guilt and doubt.

I used to love mornings. I loved waking up early to spend a few minutes staring at my sleeping husband’s face then getting up silently to prepare a breakfast that I would insist he share with me despite his protests that breakfast had never been a part of his morning rituals. I loved the smell of coffee brewing. It was a daily reminder that I had to wean Beau from his belief that 3-in-1 sachets can actually be considered a suitable replacement. I would take great care in setting our tiny table for two, obsessively insisting that we eat “proper”. There was love in a pretty looking meal, in beautifully made plates that brought out the sunny colors of food meant to jumpstart your day. I loved when he would wake up and just watch me while I puttered about, smiling a lazy smile as he wondered what all the fuss was for when he could just as easily enjoy a breakfast straight out of a cereal box.  There was comfort and reassurance in starting the day together, basking in the comfort of each others presence, sharing each others plans and knowing that the day ahead would end peacefully in each others arms come nightfall.

Our days had settled into a routine, but they were never simply habitual or mechanical. Beau had defined my mornings. He smelled of sunshine, of trees, of wind and song. Even in sleepy grumpiness he always managed to make me smile, for he was mine to keep, mine to care for, mine to spoil, to serve, to love. It was the rest of the day that to me was routine and uninteresting. Events animate and gain color only when I was back with him in the evening. It is at home, tired from the workday and from climbing,  armed with stories to tell, tales of the successes and failures of the day, that everything comes to life. He was genuinely interested in me, happy for me, angry for me, sad with me. And when he would share his day I would find calm in his joy and simplicity, in his ability to be happy with the most mundane of things.  Back then it was sleep that I wanted to delay, to do away with if only it were possible. Because when I slip into slumber, no matter that I do so cocooned in his arms, I lose consciousness of the blessing of Beau that I had in my life. Before I slept I would already look forward to the morning, when I would rise and watch him sleeping, his chest rising and falling with the cadence of peace. A peace that shattered. So suddenly. So abruptly. So incomprehensibly.

Now, mornings terrify me. I am so mortified by the coming of day that I weep in my sleep during the night, my tears saline witnesses of nightmares that I cannot remember no matter how hard I try. When I speak of panic, I mean panic. My heartbeat races like I’ve run a marathon instead of having come from a rest meant to prepare me for the day ahead. I cannot breathe and I am attacked with severe anxiety from the fluidity of the hours that lie in front of me. I feel pressured at any thought of things I have to do and I feel pressured at the thought of not knowing what to do. It is like waking up having to make a daily decision that is neither wrong nor right, left or right, here nor there. It is waking up afraid because there is nowhere to be, nowhere to go yet nowhere to stay. It feels like standing on a razor’s edge, afraid to fall yet desperately praying that someone, something would tip me over one side or the other, to tell me where I should be, where I belong, where I am organic. My chest fills full to bursting knowing that even those who love me would not really care as much where I end up. At least never as much as a husband who is half of me in spirit.  To ask me to make my own decisions on what to do and where I should be feels almost cruel. It is mocking torture. Because in my heart I knew I was meant to be making a breakfast for my life’s champion.

Even the memories of our nighttime conversations are now poisoned. When once they gave color to my otherwise mechanical day, they are now memories of signs I missed, of things I regret not having understood.  Instead of the joy and simplicity that I had seen in his smiles I now remember the days when he would come home frustrated and angry about things that were just as “simple”. I now remember his inability to see solutions and possibilities, how each problem sounded so insurmountable. They were moments, that were fleeting and seemingly insignificant. They were challenges that were Lilliputian to anyone not haunted by the ghosts that I now know plagued him. And he was a master at hiding. I realize now I was only privileged to have been let into his private world, the darkest parts of which he kept only to himself.  I wonder daily if it was something I should have caught, something that shouldn’t have escaped my notice, if it were somehow a lack of attention on my part that had disabled me from saving him from self destruction. But was it a crime for me to have seen the smiles instead of the frustrations? Was it a mistake to have seen what was whole in his simplicity instead of its brokenness when it was Beau himself who taught me to be grateful for all things given?

I mourn for my Beau. I mourn for my Beau-tiful mornings. I am angry that I am accused of choosing to dwell on my misery. I am frustrated at being asked to simply make a decision to get better.  What I would give to not have to wake up afraid to live another day. What I would give to wake up refreshed from a full night of undisturbed sleep. What I would give to find joy in delicate tableware, in matching placemats, in coffee brewed to aromatic perfection. My mornings are no longer those I have come to know. I wake up in a place cluttered with boxes of my married life just waiting to be put aside. I reach out desperately, repeatedly, for help in the mornings and know that sometimes there is no help to be found. Then I take it one minute at a time until I am embraced by the velvet ebony of night.

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Dead Man Walking

Today marks 2 months from the day my life was pulled out from under me. I expected to be somewhere else by now. I feel I’ve put in the requisite effort. But I am still running on the same treadmill and I am going nowhere.

Loneliness has set in. And it is a loneliness that words fail to describe. There are people around me but I don’t really feel like I belong anywhere anymore. I feel disjointed and out of place. I’ve told others as much. I referred to it as feeling like an appendage to other people’s lives. Beau and I had a life of our own. We had each other and to me that was what I owned, my personal treasure. I’ve written about the guilt that I feel about what my presence reminds people of.  My presence prevents people from moving on with their lives, his family especially, because my holding on to them for support inadvertently pulls them down to where I am — frozen in place, frozen in time, frozen in pain. I don’t say anything new. My loss of belonging heightens my guilt at being a burden to others. Beau was the only one who vowed before God to care for me and now he has left me in the middle of nowhere, forcing others who come along to let me hitchhike on their lives.

Beau abandons me repeatedly. I do not mean only that the event of his suicide repeats itself in my mind daily but that even his memory has begun to fade from my consciousness. The image in my mind, even aided by hundreds of photos of him, does not come close to the reality of him. Others may say this is actually a good thing, that it is a sign that I am letting go. But it is not. Thinking of him, in a twisted way, allows me to escape my own pain. The first few weeks after his passing I was saved from thinking of myself by all the activity I put into understanding what happened to Beau. Now I am faced with the task of understanding myself and I’ve begun to feel that this is the real tragedy here. I am in the now. I live, if breathing and eating alone constitutes living. I have become a living, breathing nightmare.

I’ve seem to have lost all sense of hope. I’ve heard it all of course and I know them to be true; all the loving reminders to look at the glass half full rather than empty, to count my blessings, to learn from the suffering of others. I have no defense and I will not even try to explain why I am unable to do all that. My reality is simply different and my looking glass is stained. Maybe I am not even trying hard enough, after all, I am my own responsibility. Perhaps I do not even want to get better.

I’ve begun to feel cursed instead of gifted. I should be thanking God for the ability to process and analyze and understand, but my truth is that is burdens me. To know what I should do, what is right for survival, to see where I am at and why I am there, it provides little comfort. My intellect pushes me to search incessantly for answers that are not there. It drives me the way a cruel rider whips a horse to run faster. I wish I could stop but I gallop at ever increasing speed. Stubborness is the psychedelic drug that feeds the intellectual frenzy. I have been given expert advice that my writing is counter productive to my healing. But it relieves the pressure in my brain that threatens my sanity. When I write and read what I write it gives me the assurance of rationality. And in that, I see a small glimmer of hope for self preservation. I only hope I don’t manage to create a rational excuse for self destruction. Otherwise I would whip myself until I am foaming in the mouth and drop dead from pure exhaustion.

The loss of belonging has made me double in on myself and what a powerful other curse it is. I feel overly self centered and it shames me.

Even writing is so self-indulgent isn’t it? To write and expect to be read, to impose my thoughts and feelings and publish it for the world to see is such an egotistic exercise. I write on this blog to feel connected without having to actually be with people. The keyboard shields me from my shame. It also shields me from rejection. It keeps me from sending messages to individual people who may feel obliged to answer, and it shields me from the sensitivity and pain that I feel when those I do reach out to do not reply.

I feel I am not even uniquely special to my therapists. No matter that I actually pay them to pay attention to me. If I feel like others perceive me to be egregious and notoriously flagrant in my grief, to them I am nothing exceptional. I am a commonplace specimen that falls into one of many neatly labeled sterile boxes. To them I am a statistic, and nobody really cares about individual numbers. It is only taken as a whole that such numbers have significance. Alone I am insignificant.

Those of you who read this may at this point begin to judge me. You may wish to shake me to my senses and tell me to look up and smell the roses. I am my own worst critic. I fear judgment so much I sentence myself even before anyone has actually said anything. And each time I do that I know I doom myself to my own squalid prison. How ironic that I write and share making myself vulnerable to the world. It is me saying with certainty that I know you judge me and I write to defend myself. The truth is I judge myself. Judgment is a vile, maleficent thing, especially when coupled with paranoia. And what escape is there from ourselves? Aye, a question again without a palatable answer.

I do not like myself very much. I’ve always known that about myself. Even when I impudently announce it to the world, in the hopes that someone would give me a palliative from the pain of self loathing, it is hidden by the “gifts” that were given to me by some power that strangely disappears during moments when the shade of ugliness overshadows all beauty. Not that anybody really cares. The world does not revolve around me. Everything is just insecurity, and arrogance, and vanity. Oh, the list of noxious adjectives goes on. The stench of my self-pity is nauseating. It is a slick, black, sticky tar that transfers like a virus to anyone who dares to get too near. Beau washed me clean and now he has gone and I am back swimming in it.

I’ve been told to learn how to let go. I’ve told them I do not know what that means. I do not know how to do it. But this bare-faced nakedness my writing expresses, this is as raw as it gets. It is despair. It is hopelessness. It is terror. I fear.

I seem to have started walking on my own green mile. I am a dead man walking.


Alone after the home run

I thought we would have learned how to live with each other now, this alien band of brothers that have come to visit. I knew it would be an extended stay but now I fear my guests are bent on overstaying my forced welcome. I’ve tried to get to know them all, they who have come knocking at my door. Grief, Depression, Guilt and Loneliness. They’ve hung around for so long I swear their faces had begun to morph into one another. I can hardly tell them apart and it hardly mattered, given that they’ve all wrought the same devastation on my once peaceful spirit. I’ve engaged with them, maniacally so, trying to understand how they’ve managed to convince my husband that he had nothing to live for. As the days passed I’ve come to understand the conversation they had with Beau and where it brought him. But the longer they stay with me I am beginning to dread where I would be, if, when and how I manage to push them to leave.

I’ve let myself go because I could not let him go. I drink too much coffee, smoke too much, exercise too little. I eat nothing but indulgent poison — the most luxurious of desserts, laden with gargantuan amounts of sugar, chocolate and butter; evil disguised in swirls of happy colored icing, beautiful bronze baked goodies that promise familiar highs, only to be sunk back into an even more dismal abyss when the sugar rush disappears. I need a haircut. I’ve moved back in with the ‘rents and need to start organizing the mess of my life which I had brought with me. I am on a deadline, the time I’ve borrowed from sympathetic employers was running out too fast for comfort and I seem to be on pause. Indeed, time waits for no one and life is in an ironic rush. What does it matter that life as I knew it had changed drastically and without warning?

In the beginning I had gotten on that same train of mad, frantic activity. And everyone was there, cheering from the bleachers as I rushed to cover all the bases. And I did just that.

I tried to understand what happened. I researched, read, consulted, conversed and concluded. Beau was a victim of suicide. The end result of a long fight with major depression likely caused by a genetic predisposition. He could have possibly been bi-polar or had borderline personality disorder; complicated by the trauma of losing a father at an age when he was only beginning to learn about the relationship of “cause and effect”. Freud had discovered it, the construct of “learned helplessness” where a child, unable to process the traumatic event, learns that there are things that happen in this world that are beyond our control and therefore, when challenges come up, no matter how small, he would be powerless to fight it. He told me once before that he had watched his father burn. A child watching a cremation is a nightmarish tableau. Whether it had actually happened is of no consequence. For Beau, it was his reality. Had he agreed to seek professional help he would have discovered he was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome as well. My own therapists say it would have been a textbook diagnosis, what with the death happening the day after his birthday and the constant reminder of his father’s ashes in the family home. There were other reminders, other questions, too private to share, that had left wounds that festered. He had grown into the body of a man and yet, somewhere inside him, an 11 year old boy continued to stare into the flames.

Apparently there had been prior attempts to take his life before I had even met him, usually triggered by a relationship gone awry. He feared rejection and magnified abandonment, attaching all sense of hope to relationships that he perceived in his mind to be all that he had in his life. I had saved him twice he said, having talked him through the demise of two of his past romances. He had always threatened to end his life at the end of his relationships. I had always thought he meant I had saved him figuratively. Now I know better, too late.

Even if I had known his threats to be true, I would have thought marriage would have put an end to the suicide ideations. After all, the promise of forever keeps the threat of abandonment at bay. And for all intents and purposes, as far as I knew, we had been the giddiest kids on the marriage block. But I suppose all marriages have its own challenges, and the monster that lay dormant inside him waited for the opportunity to rear its ugly head.

I had always envied him for his freedom of spirit. I was jealous that he had built a life of simplicity doing what he loved. But even before we had gotten married he had always talked about wanting to do something else, to find his fortunes elsewhere and to keep climbing as a hobby rather than his career. It had been frustrating for him, and I knew that the conservative man that he truly was, he wanted to prove that he could provide for me somewhat. There was never any pressure on this front, at least not outwardly, and not that I was consciously aware of, although I know that sometimes circumstance itself could create them. I had tried to control the situation at any sign of insecurity, although if there were any, he was such master at keeping them from me that despite my vigilance, it was only in the last three months of his life that I recognized any discontent. I had supported him by asking him to simply pursue what he was passionate about. There was much trial and error but in the end he had still hoped against hope that he could make something out of the sport that he loved. I believe it was his failure to make this happen that was the trigger for his last and final episode.

He loved bouldering. And the competition which had been named after him was his pride and joy. He had attempted to put up the event a year into our marriage. It had pushed through but at great cost. He had taken it hard, given that I had to step in to bail him out. He declared he was done with the competition, done with climbing in general and moved on. or so I thought. A year after he announced he was going to try to put the event up again and against my better judgment, I supported him once again. This time, despite his constant assurances that the postponements and delays with sponsorship contracts were just minor snags, the event did not push through. We argued about it for a day or two and I thought that was the end of it. But apparently he had again talked to some people about taking his life out of shame and embarrassment. I thought he had gotten over that particular hill, he had decided to embark on a new challenge — to get certified as a personal trainer. But now I know this only added to the weight he carried. He had put all his hope in that basket, telling me repeatedly during those days when his frustration and stress were poisoning our marriage that it was all he had going for him. I tried to refocus his thinking and emotions into positive things, to the dreams we had created together for the future, but he was incapable of looking forward and insisted on collapsing into the past. In retrospect I know now that nothing I said would have made a difference. Unless he was given the medication he needed, he was spiraling out of control towards his own self destruction.

You would think that all of the above would absolve me of my guilt. It does not. A psychiatrist would describe him as a textbook case and any diligent researcher armed with an internet connection and a laptop would agree. The illness is what killed him. It was not anybody’s fault. He was psychologically disturbed and did not have the skills to deal with life’s challenges. Cerebrally it all makes a lot of sense. But as his wife, I look at what happened with different lenses. And what a different story my heart can see.

I remember a man excited for a future. I remember a husband narcissistically proud of a happy marriage. I remember conversations about the children we were going to raise, the trips we were going to take, the long bucket list of things we needed to do. My heart cannot accept what all the research and professional consultations have logically confirmed. I have hit a home run with all the bases loaded. But now the bleachers are empty, the game is over. Everyone has gone on to their homes and life continues on. The numbers on my blog have dwindled. The hundreds of likes and comments of support on my Facebook page have all but disappeared. Very few ask how I am anymore. And I sit in the ball park alone, enveloped in the blackness left by the shut down of the stadium lights.

They wait for me, my unwanted guests. Grief, Depression, Guilt and Loneliness. They took my husband away and now they await me. I am beginning to dread where I would be after all is said and done. Because as of now I am back on first base. Bleachers empty. Alone after a cerebral home run that has done nothing to heal the pain in my heart. Beau is gone. Game over.