Nobody Wants to Die Alone

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When I came out to my parents in 1995 my father told me that I would die alone, in the hospital of AIDS. That I had always wanted to lose weight and I would from AIDS. I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I thought I had wouldn’t show up when I was dying. I was just out of high school and unsure of the world. These messages I have carried with me since then. Most people fear dying alone, I think. I took his falsehoods as fact. Dying alone was hard wired deep into my subconscious. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.

The fear is amplified by the fact that I don’t have children. I have been single for nearly ten years and these days I don’t want a relationship. So this only adds to the fear of being alone for the rest of my life. Honestly most of my life I have been alone. So I should be used to it by now but I’m not. It’s one thing to be alone in your life but another thing to die alone.

Death has always scared me senseless due to the fact that I don’t know what I believe in terms of the afterlife. Will I just turn to dust or will I move to the next stage of consciousness. I just don’t know. If I believed in the afterlife definitely then I would have some comfort at the idea of dying because eventually I will see my loved ones again. I have no clue what will happen when I die. I start to panic anytime I think about it.

I avoided anything related to death. Anytime a loved one died it brought it to the forefront of my mind and it always scared me to the core. This was especially true when my Mom died in 2012. After that I haven’t been able to get away from it. Recently I had a premonition that I was going to die. I was recently diagnosed with atrial flutter. As my doctor was taking longer than usual listening to my chest I started to worry. Then when she said I would need an EKG I for sure thought I was having a heart attack. Was this my time I thought. It was irrational but it felt real.

Thankfully my the rest of my heart seems to be normal, other than the flutter. In order to get my heart back into normal rhythm I have to have a procedure called cardioversion. I must take blood thinners to prevent blood clots in the heart. This is especially true when I have the procedure done. I was supposed to have it done this week but my blood wasn’t thinned enough. Now I have to wait another month, which is problematic because anytime I exert myself it makes me light headed.

My current health has brought my mortality to the front of the line. While the procedure is fairly safe there is risk of blood clots. If they leave the heart then I could have a stroke. What’s most scary is that they basically restart your heart using paddles on your chest. That’s just an image that I don’t want illustrated. So as I waited Friday morning in the hospital waiting room I saw families and friends waiting for loved ones. This triggered me horribly as I had no one to go with. I was alone. Ever since then it’s all I can think of. If something was to happen while I was under I would have died the way my father said. There isn’t anything more sad and tragic than to die alone.

I already struggle with being alone most the time. If it wasn’t for my therapist I wouldn’t see anyone regularly. I have few friends that I see in person. Sure I have friends on facebook but they’re not a substitute for people you hang out with. Many live out of state. Now my fear is amplified and I’m even more desperate for connection. Sadly making close friends isn’t like growing sea monkeys. There are no instant friendship, well not usually.

For now I have to cope with these feelings and fears the best I can. The night before the procedure I was overcome with anxiety from the fear of dying. I finally had to come to peace if it was my time there would be nothing I could do. I felt a sense of peace. That it won’t matter when I’m dead, I won’t feel anything like the loss of my loved ones. At least I hope not. I have suffered enough in this lifetime I hope that when I die I’m at peace finally. You’re forced to deal with mortality as you grow older. With each year you move closer to the front of the line. Then there’s the whole no guarantee aspect to life. Long life isn’t given to everyone. I don’t want to be that person, no one does. I have too much left to accomplish before I do. I feel like I have wasted time already. I want to leave something behind, like my comic book.

I have had the idea for over five years but my mental illness has kept me away from anything good. So I feel like I’m fighting against time both with my mortality and the disease. I have two major players constantly fighting me. So it’s a lot to cope with let alone the fear of death. It’s just another added level of complexity to my life and I have no choice but to deal with it.

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It’s Going to Be Okay

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A few months ago my psychiatrist started to tinker with my medicine, in the hopes of finding something that would relieve my depression. I have been on Zoloft for almost a year and I was still getting very depressed. I would cycle in and out of mini bouts of depressive episodes. Usually I was able to bounce back if I showered or got out of the house. After about a week of misery from not showering and living in a messy apartment I’m usually pushed to do something about it. My latest depressive episode has been completely different.

At first we tried Abilify but that made me gain over thirty pounds. Then we switched to Vraylar and that didn’t work. I tried Pristiq and that made me a zombie. Slowly my depression worsened over the last month. I could feel it creep up on me and I was unable to stop it. With the Pristiq making me numb it made the symptoms of depression even worse. I felt nothing, yet I was crippled and unable to do anything.

Usually I only leave the apartment to go to therapy, which is once a week but recently I have had heart issues and had to miss a few weeks. Then my therapist went on vacation. So I spent over a week not leaving my apartment. It got so bad that my neighbor noticed that I hadn’t been out of my apartment and became concerned enough to knock on my door. When I didn’t answer she left a note saying if she didn’t hear from me by the next day she was going to have the police do a wellness check. So I answered the door. The first time she knocked I was sleeping and thought she was my one neighbor who is pushy and nosey. It felt good that someone cared enough to check on me. I don’t really have people like that in my life.

I had no energy to do anything. I spent money I didn’t have on pizza delivery and hide in the darkness. My sleep schedule was completely off. I was going to bed around noon and wasn’t waking up until late in the evening. I became a vampire. I couldn’t control it. I was helpless and hopeless. My thoughts about suicide were just a matter of fact. I wasn’t really suicidal but when I had thoughts they were serious. It was like something was turned off in me and I had no emotion behind my thoughts. Like I was suffering greatly but it felt differently. I just didn’t care.

I was drowning in muck. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I was in trouble but nothing escaped my windpipes. Not even a whisper. I was rotting from the inside out. I was living in complete chaos and I didn’t know how to get out. Until one night when I woke up with a massive panic attack. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been suffering for two months and enough was enough. I thought about the relief that would come from being hospitalized and wondered why I hadn’t thought about that earlier. That’s the problem with depression you have tunnel vision. You can only see the misery and pain. As much as I hate being hospitalized I knew that in a few weeks I would feel better.

So I called an uber and packed up a small bag of clothes. Within thirty minutes I was at crisis services at community mental health. It’s a scary process as you are put in a room for hours. I can imagine that it’s like a waiting room on an alien ship for humans to be probed. The most scary aspect of the process is that they can send you anywhere in the state of Michigan for help. The first bed they find available is where you go. Unfortunately that’s the reality for anyone on Medicaid. It’s almost like having no insurance at all when it comes to mental health.

Unless you are going to kill yourself they won’t even consider hospitalizing you. So they deemed me safe enough for alternative treatment. Honestly I was at my worst shape I have been in since 2013, after my Mom died but that’s the system for you. I wasn’t eating, nor was I showering. My apartment was super messy and I had been isolating for weeks. I very easily could have done something in a snap decision. You basically have to lie and say you are going to kill yourself to get the help you need. The system makes it almost impossible to get help and they make you jump through flaming hoops.

I was referred to a partial hospitalization program. The nice thing about not being hospitalized is that I was able to spend my birthday week with my family, who I love with all my heart. It was the best week I have had since my Mom died in 2012. I got to see my nieces and nephew. We played video games, went swimming and watched fireworks on the fourth of July. It was something I really needed to push me through into the partial program. It gave me the strength needed to work on some tough issues, like my fear of leaving my apartment. I have gotten to the point where I don’t like staying in my apartment. Which is strange because for the longest time it’s the only place I felt safe. When I’m home I have no one to talk to or see. It’s just me. I’m alone with my thoughts, struggles and pain.

The Friday before I started the program, I started to have severe anxiety. It was unlike any panic attack that I had ever had. Usually when I have a panic attack I feel like the walls are closing in on me and the oxygen is escaping the room. This time I felt utterly scared for my life. I thought I was going crazy. It was an anxiety that I had never felt. It was severe and constant. I really thought I was dying. I wasn’t sure if it was anxiety or related to my heart. My worst fears came true and I wondered if this what it felt like when you have a stroke. I was desperate to be around people. Thankfully I was still at my sisters. I tried to spend as much time around my family as I could, that’s how unsafe I felt. That night I almost woke up my sister because I thought I was dying. I did everything I can to snap myself out of it. I splashed cold water on my face. Paced. Using my grounding exercises and nothing was working. The next day I told my sister and she gave me a xanax, which helped cut the severity but it was still unbearable.

That Sunday I knew I was going home and I started to panic. My family was outside preparing their boat for the lake. Normally I would stay in side but this time I was desperate to be around them. I went outside by them and sat under a big, old oak tree. My eleven year old niece sat beside me and we spent some quality time together. She showed me a morning dove in a building near by, they call her Thicky Nicky because she’s quite big. We spent a good thirty minutes trying to identify another bird who created a nest in one of those gigantic spools for wire. I soaked up as much time with her as possible but I felt a great sadness, knowing that I was going home soon.

After my Mom died to was severely codependent to my family. I was living in hell and couldn’t leave their side. I was afraid something would happen to me and it paralyzed me. My fear was that if I moved out that something bad would happen and I wouldn’t be there to take care of whatever happened. Last year I broke that cycle and moved into my own place. It’s been the hardest year of my life. I went from seeing the kids every day to barely seeing them. It broke my heart, especially knowing that they were growing up and I would miss those moments. So for a good year I have isolated. If it wasn’t for my weekly therapist appointments I wouldn’t leave the house, nor would I see anyone. I went from one extreme to the next. I locked everyone out because I couldn’t handle the grief from losing that deep connection. It was something that I had to do in order to be happy. I have suffered for most of my life and I just can’t suffer anymore.

So it came time to leave. I sat next to my niece and I held back the tears. As I got out of the car I started to sob, the pain was unbearable. I had to hold back from breaking down. I don’t know if I have ever felt more sad than that moment. It felt like a release of ever last ounce of sadness I had from the loss of my Mom to various other events in my life. I gave my sister a hugg and I ran into my apartment to sob. I felt so very alone in my messy apartment. I didn’t want to leave the best week in seven years but I had to in order to heal. I was sick and needed help.

Monday came along and I didn’t want to leave the apartment. I wanted to hide, as it was comfortable and all I knew. The first day I constantly looked at the clock hoping that 3pm would arrive. Though I dreaded coming home to my empty, chaotic apartment. It was a strange place to be. Each day my mental health has improved. I finished my first week and am already feeling better. The doctor at the program increased my medicine and that seems to be helping. I think that’s what caused the severe anxiety being off Zoloft. I’m really thankful to have such a great program to go to. It’s a relief to have structure and to be away from the loneliness of my apartment.

Recently I have started to have issues with my heart. It was discovered that I have atrial flutter, where the top part of the heart is out of rhythm. My heart beat flutters. At first I thought it was my asthma and being allergic to the cat I just got. One day I went to the grocery store. I didn’t do much walking but as I was checking out I almost fainted. The symptoms began to get worse to the point where I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without feeling light headed. I went to my doctor and she started to be concerned listening to my chest. When she said she wanted me to have an ekg I thought for sure I was dying aka having a heart attack. The hooked the cables up to my chest and the results showed that I had atrial flutter. I was put on blood thinner because with atrial flutter there is a risk of blood clots which could lead to having a stroke. The following week I went to a cardiologist and had an echo of my heart. Other than the atrial flutter my heart was okay.

To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm.  Blood clots can form in your heart’s left atrium. Cardioversion may knock loose a blood clot in your left atrium. If the clot (embolus) travels to your brain, it can cause a stroke. To avoid this, your doctor may give you medicine (such as warfarin) to make your blood less likely to form blood clots. To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm. 

So you can imagine how scary this would be. My biggest fear is to die. While complications of electric cardioversion are uncommon, it’s still a risk. The idea of them restarting my heart sends shivers to my bones. No matter how much fear I have I know that the procedure must be done because it’s hard for me to do anything. Not to mention that there is a risk of blood clots and taking a blood thinner puts me at risk of bleeding, especially if I fall. I thought the procedure was on Thursday morning, so I told the program that I wouldn’t attend. I fasted the night before and woke up early. I get to the hospital and they inform me that the procedure was for the next day. I wanted to go home and hide. I was so frustrated at the idea of doing this all over. Instead I pushed through and called the program to pick me up from the hospital. As much as I wanted to go home I didn’t really want to spend a whole day alone. I was glad to have a place to spend a good part of my day. I get home in the late afternoon and tried to not think of the fear I was dying. I had this irrational fear that I would die during the procedure.

I arrive at the hospital at 7am. I get to the hospital room and they start to prepare me. They took some blood to test how thinned my blood was and unfortunately my blood wasn’t thinned enough. The procedure was cancelled and postponed until my blood was thinned out. The doctor increased my medicine and now I have to wait. So that means another month of suffering, which is troublesome because I have pack up my apartment this month due to a remodel. This day was different. I went to the hospital cafeteria and had a big breakfast. I called the program and had them pick me up again. This time I didn’t want to go home.

I was so relieved to not be home, especially because I had to process what had happened. I ended up having a decent day. The program had pizza for lunch and it was delicious. I could live on pizza. I went home with the strength to pick up my living room and asked a friend to help me to take trash to the dumpster. My apartment is cleaner than it’s been in a while, probably months. Now I need to tackle my laundry. It’s been months since I have done it.

The biggest challenge that I am going to have is the lack of structure. I’m already dreading this weekend because I have nothing to do. I woke up in a panic at the idea of spending a few days in my apartment alone. I can feel the depression creep up and I haven’t felt that this week. I’ve learned that isolation only makes me worse. It’s my achilles heel. It traumatizes me as it brings up trigger of forced isolate when I was growing up. A time where I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. So now anytime I’m alone I get transported to that time, thanks to my PTSD.

After I finish this partial hospitalization program this will be a big issue for me as I don’t want to go back to where I was and it will be easy for me to do. I’m not able to volunteer or work due to going for SSI disability. If I do the judge will deny me. I have been waiting over five years for this and I just can’t risk it. Having that income would be a lifesaver for me plus it would mean having Medicare. For the past four years I have lived off state disability which is only two hundred dollars a month, which is very miserable to live off of. Which contributes to the isolation because I don’t have a car or money to do much.

I’m looking at another year until I could get my benefits. I won’t have a court date until the end of the year and it’s yet to be scheduled. I’m not sure how I will manage this year but I don’t have a choice. I have started to look into alternative forms of treatments like ECT or medical marianna. I’m desperate for relief from my depression. I deserve wonderful things and more importantly happiness. I want to live the remaining years of my life content and happy. I have earned it.

The only choice I have is to continue to push myself and do what I need to do to survive. People tell me all the time that I’m stronger than I think. For me, it has nothing to do with the lack of strength. I’m one of the strongest people in this world. Anyone who deals with their trauma, pain and suffering are the strongest warriors on this earth. It’s about suffering and wanting relief. I use to think I was broken but I now realize that I’m made of steel. I just don’t want to die anymore.

Structure will be important to survive this year. Which means setting a normal sleeping schedule, including set times to take my medicine. Making lists and using my mental health hacks. Setting goals and pushing myself to get out of the house, even if it means going downstairs to the community room where there is cable tv. I don’t want to return to the last two months. I’m not sure I could survive another depressive episode like that again.

I deserve nothing but the best and I will stop at nothing to achieve it.

Trauma Spilling Out Into My Dreams

*****Trigger Warning. I talk about mental illness, sexual abuse and suicide.*****

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I have been in this current PTSD episode since July of last year. Anyone who has PTSD will probably say that living with PTSD is much like living in a war zone, especially when you are in trigger mode. Often times you can’t control the flooding of emotion from your traumatic experiences. One example are flashbacks. I have had moments where I’m back to the root of my pain. For example, the cabin where I was molested. When I flashback I lose all sense of time and I time travel back to the past. I’m back to that cabin. The imagery is so vivid that I could probably paint and exact replica of the way the cabin looked. Everything from the musty smell that comes from old cabins to the band playing at the club house. I can hear and sense the wind sweeping through the window in the bedroom where it all happened. A lot of times I relive some of the aftermath of the trauma. Like going to the shower to wash off the filth or walking up to my parents door to tell them what happened and never did. Finally to the couch that I slept in each night after you know happened and he went to bed. Someone once told me that PTSD is like opening a door to escape from the danger and each door you open leads you back to the danger. There is no escaping it. I live in that world constantly.

So you can imagine how troubling that all is when you experience it. The last six months have been hell. I’m finally at the root of the fallout. A nuclear bomb tore my being apart and I tried to deal with the best way I could as a kid. That meant putting the horrible feelings into a box. Locking it and hiding it so good that I didn’t even remember there was even a box in the first place. Much like in Wreck it Ralph when King Candy/Turbo hides Vanellope’s code so that he can take over and erase her memory. That’s essentially what an abuser does. Which meant hiding the fallout behind a candyland of my own. So much sugary sweet that it would rot your mouth out. Eventually the Cy-Bugs will start to eat away at the candy facade to hunt you down. Since my Mom died in 2012, the veil between the two worlds has been lifted and I have been on the run ever since.

During this last year, I have worked hard to cope with the aftermath. I’m learning to not let the trauma swallow me whole like it’s done in the past. Which means not pushing away the horrible events and the feelings that result of the bad events. In order to heal, you must relive these horrible moments as an adult. Now when I flashback to events like the abuse I allow myself to feel the pain and let me tell you there isn’t anymore gut punching that that. Especially when it’s related to my Mom dying or anything related to the emotional abuse from my father. Every bad feeling finds its way to the surface like the Cy-Bugs and I must blast each one away. This episode is different than any in the past because I’m triggered by every trauma in my life. So you are talking about four big traumas in my life. In the past, an episode was related to only one trigger. The last big PTSD breakdown was in 2004-2005 and that was related to the childhood sexual abuse. Now it’s everything. No longer can I run from the trauma and there are a million Cy-Bugs ready to kill me.

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If you don’t have PTSD it might be difficult to understand what it’s like. I describe it like constantly feeling in danger. Like the predator is stalking you and waiting for the right moment to rip your jugular apart. It’s a war zone from which you can’t escape. At any moment the opposition could throw a bomb your way. Friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. You can’t trust anyone, including yourself. Your primary goal in these situations is to stay alive, which means hiding any way you can. One way I do this is to isolate in my home. Many times the predator is at my back door, determined to track me down. Even the faint sound from my breath could tip him off, so I have to stay frozen. There is nothing more scary than having to live in those life threatening moments again. Many of these situations I don’t realize that I’m in the past. It’s only been the last few years that I have started to sense them earlier on. In the past, I would get triggered and not realize that I was triggered. I would get very depressed and weeks later I start to realize something happened. Then I realize that I have been triggered. Most the time I don’t even know what has triggered me.

That’s is different from this current PTSD episode. I know exactly when I’m triggered because they are played out like I’m watching a movie at the theater. So I spend my waking hours trying to battle all the Cy-Bugs. I have use my coping techniques to destroy each predator, one bug at a time. I have to remind me that I’m no longer in danger and I have escaped that traumatic place. I tell myself that it’s not my fault at all. That I’m lovable and the reason the person hurt me is because of something they are lacking. I use to think it was my fault. That because my child self couldn’t find a reason why someone would hurt me (that was supposed to love and protect me), it meant that inside something was wrong. That meant believing that I was unlovable. Too emotional. Too much. My light was used against me and I was brainwashed into believing that my light was too blinding. So I extinguished it and grew up in darkness. The darkness has ate away my soul and poisoned my veins, and now it’s a do or die situation. I have been the closest to the trauma killing me than ever before. In January, I wrote a suicide note and had a plan. So I am in “Danger, Will Robinson” mode. The fire alarms are blaring and I can’t find out a way to put out the fires but I’m trying.

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This all goes out the window, when my trauma spill out into my dreams. The Cy-Bugs have burrowed so deep that they have reached my subconscious. They are trying to kill me from the inside out, which is another Disney movie. We can only have one metaphor at a time. So I’m not going down that road. Anyways I have started to have PTSD nightmares. There not your typical boogie man nightmares either. I re-enact the trauma, like it’s Unsolved Mysteries, but in new ways. For example, I will have nightmares where my Mom dies in new ways. She never dies in the hospital. One night I dreamed that both my parents died when we went to Disney World, which is one of the few wonderful moments from my childhood. I loved our trip to Orlando, as it was a dream of mine to go to Disney. So to have my wonderful memories turned into nightmare is just cruel. Hiding trauma, pain and insecurity is much like putting air into a balloon. That balloon can only take so much before it finds relief any way it can. So it will either explode or it will go flying across the room, like a chick with its head cut off. The Cy-Bugs have found the trap door to my soul and now are torturing me through my dreams, which you absolutely can’t control. My dreams are so vivid and real, that it feels like I’m awake when I’m enduring the dreams. It’s like I have an out of body experience. I’m awake watching the dream on the big screen. It reminds me of shows like Grey’s Anatomy when they have viewing windows into surgery rooms so students can watch surgeries. I get to watch my guts being ripped apart, every single time.

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Each time I wake up, I feel like I’m dying. I haven’t felt a more horrible feeling than that. I can’t even begin to describe it. It’s like someone has put me in a giant can and shaked me about. I’m dizzy and disoriented. Time comes to a screeching halt. I can feel the insides being ripped apart one piece of flesh at a time. I spend the nights having my guts punched repeatedly. It’s like I have amnesia when I wake up and I forget all my coping mechanisms. The world that we no is gone and I forget all my coping skills. I lose all sense of reality. So the first few hours are hell, as I slowly wake up from the trauma. So the dreams where my Mom dies I relive the true feelings I felt the morning she died. I have had so many PTSD nightmares related to my Mom’s death that I could write a book. Of all the traumas, that was the most horrific. It almost destroyed me. Since 2012, I haven’t been able to bounce back from a nervous breakdown.

The dreams are non-stop. There isn’t a night that I go without a PTSD nightmare. They stopped momentarily when my psychiatrist put me on Prazosin, which is for PTSD dreams. That didn’t last long and the nightmares returned. I’m at a fairly high dose too. This morning I awoke to another PTSD dream. During the night I woke up, like I usually do and I was relieved to that regular, non-scary dreams. Finally some relief, or so I thought. I laid back down and the Cy-Bugs returned. This nightmare was related to the rejection from the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. They all came together to confront me on how embarrassing it was for them that I have been living this way. I’m supposed to hid my pain and pretend like nothing happened. Which means being like everyone else and hold down a job. I haven’t had too many positive people in my life. There was one person who always loved and supported me, no matter what. Everytime we’d have a family function I would always gravitate to my lesbian aunt. She could see me for who I was and never judged me. She was my safety net. Prior to this hospitalization I have only had one person ever visit me and that was during my first hospitalization in 2000 when I first started to deal with the childhood sexual abuse. I can remember that moment very clearly today. After that visit, I never had any friends or family visit me during my other hospitalizations. My hospization in January I finally had a friend come visit me, who surprised me. I had always dreamed of having a visitor. Each time I would watch friends and family come visit their loved ones, and no one would ever come for me. This time someone did and I was pure joy and happiness.

Even though my relationship with my Mom was complicated, she loved me deeply. In the end, she was only one of the few who stuck it out. When she died I lost that resource and the world became a dark, dangerous place. I no longer had my superhero to come rescue me. She was murdered in front of me, like Bruce Wayne in Batman. Last year I lost one of the remaining people in my life who was light. My aunt gave up on me and rejected me finally. It broke my heart as I love her deeply. This time the person chose to leave me, unlike my Mom dying. I was too broken for my Aunt and she could no longer deal with my damager. I should point out that I rarely reached out to her for help and when I did it was just sending her a message asking her opinion on something. I never cried on her shoulders and she didn’t really have to live around my trauma but she was judging me from the sidelines and she wasn’t ever at the games. I was deleted off facebook and blocked. She ignored my messages wondering what I did to deserve this. I was erased and it destroyed me. So this dream was related to that and my heart was broke last night, all over again.

I’m alone with my pain, grief and sorrow. There isn’t a more horrible feeling than that. It’s like floating away into outer space. Eventually you float so far that all you can see is darkness. The black hole finally swallows you whole. The only thing surrounding you are all the angry, evil voices inside your head.

I just want relief. I live in pain during the days and that only intensifies when I sleep. Many nights I have multiple ptsd dreams about different traumas. One night I had the worst PTSD dreams ever. One dream was related to my Mom dying and the other was the sexual abuse. The two main traumas in my life. I woke up dying. If I didn’t have therapy in a couple hours it probably would have killed me. That’s how intense the dreams were.

I’m getting to the point where I’m just lost. I’m desperate for them to go away and it doesn’t appear that they will anytime soon. I can’t take a higher dose of the PTSD med because of my blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels. Which means I’m stuck with my dreams. The only thing I can control is the aftermath and I’m doing the best I can. In some ways I have mastered them but not really. I have just gotten better on coping with them. They still hurt like hell, that hasn’t changed, but the time period isn’t as long usually. They are intense enough that I’m exhausted. This morning I woke up feeling so tired. Not again, I thought. I had jinxed myself by thinking I was going to have a night just living with Freddy Krueger. Nope, the devil was there instead.

What worries me is that eventually I will get to a point where they nightmares will eat away at my conscious and finally kill me. I’m fighting so hard to keep the Cy-Bugs at bay but my defenses are low and my army is now just me. Right now my coping skills are whispers and I’m holding onto them for dear life. I will say that the hours I’m awake have started to get a bit better. I have started to enjoy some of my days and I have started to blossom a little bit. I’ve become less scared and have started to want to leave the house. I have more energy than I have in a long while. Which means keeping up with chores better, though right now I’m rather behind. I can only take it so long before I have to start cleaning. I know that these are good signs.

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I feel myself slipping and that scares the hell out of me. One of the PTSD dreams last week was related to my Father hurting me. I spiralled into a deep depression. Probably the worst in years. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just in complete darkness weighed down by the pain. I was sluggish and lethargic. Up to my neck in muck, with poisonous fog all around. This time I knew what had caused the spiral and was able to process it with my therapist. I have been able to recover mostly and that’s progress. I guess what troubles me about these spirals is that they will eventually hit the bottom like I did in January. This was very close. I know the next time I might not be as fortunate and might be successful at ending my life. I feel like I’m racing for time, not knowing when I will finally drown in the trauma.

So while I have become good at coping with my waking hours, I can’t control my nightmares and they are not giving up. They are seeping into every waking hour and I keep batting them away. I’m just desperate for some rest. I want to be able to move forward and these fucking nightmares keep trying to pull me under. Leave me alone. Today was one of the first days where I had a more fuck it attitudes towards my nightmares. I have tried to escape (flight) them, and I have certainly been frozen, now that remains is fight. If they won’t stop then I’m going to kill every last one of them. So as scary as all of this is and I live in constant fear, I’m not letting the pain and trauma win. To do so is to give up control to everyone who has caused me harm. Nope. Not going to happen anymore. You are not worthy of my anger, pain and sorrow. It is you that is lacking what you fear in me. My light can’t be estinugused and you tried with all your might. The only thing that it’s done is made me stronger. I have come to realize that not only am I unstoppable but unbreakable as are. So have at it mother fucking PTSD dreams. I’m ready for you know, with a baseball bat in hand. I’m determined to conquer my dreams. It’s a do or die situation. This is the final batter and I will not give up until I succeed.

It’s so easy to only see the failures. I’m learning to see the victories. Here are my wins so far:

  • I have been in therapy since 2012
  • On psych meds since 2012
  • Escaped homelessness
  • Have my own apartment by myself
  • I finally have a psychiatrist
  • I have a case worker
  • I have not missed a therapy appointment and go no matter what
  • Lost nearly 90 lbs
  • Started to take the bus again
  • Back to working on Dragzilla, my comic book
  • Using my grounding exercises
  • Being honest with myself
  • Starting to process the deep wounds
  • Using mental health lifehacks, to my life easier
  • Came out as Trans
  • In the process of take hormones
  • Dealt with the loss of my Mom
  • Working on overcoming the constant need to please people
  • Working on self care
  • Cutting out people in my life who are not good for me
  • Loving myself
  • Starting to make friends
  • Going to my trans support group
  • Getting help when I need it, like being hospitalized
  • Taking risks like making new connections
  • Being myself and not hiding my light
  • Not taking things personal. What others feel about me is not my business.
  • Finally have my independence
  • Stability for the first time ever. I no longer have to live in fear of losing my housing due to the inability to pay my rent or due to someone else. I live alone and no one can tell me what to do. I can leave my apartment messy. I can cook in the middle of the night. I can sleep in until afternoon and no one can say a damn thing.
  • Starting to blog again
  • Taking steps to not relapse. Like ensuring I take my meds with pill packs and delivery of my meds right to my apartment.
  • Advocating for myself and letting the professionals in my life what I need. Liking getting rides to appointments from my caseworker. Otherwise I might not have gone.
  • Coming up with an action plan with my therapist, when I’m not safe. I send her a text saying 911, if I’m going to kill myself and she will call 911.
  • I had a sculpture in an art show in NYC. A fight foot tree made out of eyewear material
  • Had a rose sculpture at Art Prize in Grand Rapids that got me the sculpture commission in NYC.

Until this year I wouldn’t have been able to recognize all these wins. The smallest crumble will eventually make a cookie. I have come so far and I’m back on track. I’m near the finish line I just have to keep moving forward. Do what I need to do, when I need to do it. Survive the storm. Eventually it will pass. They always do. That’s one of the few constants in my life, having them eventually end. Now I’m preparing better for each one and putting to place action plans to keep myself safe.

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So as tough as last night was, I won this battle. It didn’t really take me under. I felt horrible for about 15 minutes and then started to process it by writing this post. Other’s reality is not my own. So my family can judge me for my mental illness, that’s their right but that is not my truth. They can’t take away my triumphs. They just can’t handle my guatemalaness. (That’s a Birdcage joke)

They weren’t there for me during my bad times. Therefore they won’t be there for my successes. This time that’s my choice, not theirs. I deserve nothing but the best. I am going to use my light to help other people. I have value in this world and am going to only seek out people who want to be in my life, and will make an effort to want to see me. My differences are my strengths, like my artistic ability with my comic book.

So I’m on my way and screw my PTSD dreams. I’m working on healing the wounds one trauma at a time. Eventually the ptsd dreams will just be a regular nightmare. I will wake up and be like wow that was a crazy nightmare, and move on with my day. I won’t even feel bad about it. Dreams are just dreams, they are not based on reality. I haven’t been able to see that this year but I’m learning to. One ptsd dream at a time.

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A Heavy Heart

So tonight I have a heavy heart, as I am reminded that there are many sad and lonely people in this world… many of them who are dealing with their pain with various addictions such as drugs, alcohol, etc.

Some may wonder what causes a person to turn to suicide or overdosing?  Often times there are warning signs that people either ignore, don’t see or just play off as nothing to serious. Some people don’t want to get involved or just feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say or do…

What causes people to not take a stand for the people they love? Why has our society gotten away from taking care of each other? Out of sight, out of mind…

Asking for help is just a luxury that many people don’t have the ability to do. It is like drowning in water and not being able to reach for the life preserver because it’s too far away. The same implies to reaching out for support. You either feel you don’t deserve the help, feel like you will be judged or just don’t have the courage to ask for help. The deeper you are in that hole, the less likely you will get help.

I was there four months ago. I knew I needed help and was tired of feeling miserable but didn’t have the resources to get the help… I was also deeply depressed which altered my thinking and rationale. I’m thankful that I have never picked up additions to alcohol or drugs because those who do struggle even more. That’s not to say that I don’t self medicate because I do but my drug is food… and sometimes even sex… Thankfully you can’t overdose on food or sex, though you can find yourself in a dangerous situation with both addictions.

In research it’s been shown that gay men are more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with their pain, as well as suicide… All it takes is growing up in a non-supportive family for you to grow up feeling less. You constantly find yourself trying to run away from it all but you never are successful from shaking off the pain. So you learn to turn to anything you can to drown out the pain.

Personally for me, it’s never that I want to die… I just want the suffering to stop… and when you don’t think that it ever will end, that’s when you start to become reckless with your thoughts and actions… Whenever I hear about someone committing suicide or dying from an overdose, I wonder could they been saved? Sure there is the thought that if someone wants to die, there is nothing that you can do… but what about before they hit rock bottom? People don’t become suicidal overnight, there are many things that lead up to them killing themselves.

As someone whose dealt with depression most of my life, when you need and want help often times there is a lot of red tape and barriers to getting the help you need and deserve… Being gay can certainly add to those barriers. Unless you live in a big city, there are few options for getting help if you are gay including if you find yourself homeless. Sure if you have insurance and money then it’s easier to get the help but many people who are struggling have neither. It’s sad we live in a world where health and well being are associated with money. I believe it shouldn’t cost a dime to stay alive.

If you see someone struggling, in trouble, don’t wait for them to reach up for a helping hand… by then it may be too late… reach down and help them up… Be their rock. Give them the support they need. Show them love, care and compassion. There are so many people out there that still can be reached. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of this world and we often lose sight of what’s important.

I think the more we try to better ourselves with technology, education, etc we become less human… Individualism is important but so is community. There are so many people in this world who are hurting and feel so alone. Do you stand by and let them hurt/die alone… or will you take action and be there for them when they need someone the most. You may be the difference between someone living and someone dying.

This world needs love… and lots of it…

When Somebody Loved Me

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When somebody loved me,

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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And when I was sad,

She was there to dry my tears

And when I was happy,

So was she

When she loved me

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Through the summer and the fall

We had each other, that was all

Just she and I together,

Like it was meant to be

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And when I was lonely,

She was there to comfort me

And I knew that she loved me

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So the years went by

I stayed the same

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She began to drift away

I felt alone

Still I wait for the day

When she’ll say I will always love you

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Lonely and forgotten,

I’d never thought she’d go away

Wishing she would smile at me and hold me just like she used to do

Like she loved me

When she loved me

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When somebody loved me

Everything was beautiful

Every hour we spent together lives within my heart

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Death Becomes Us All

As much as we try to hide from it, death is inevitable. When you are younger it is easier to hide from it, especially if you haven’t ever had to face the death of a loved one. As you become older you are forced to face it when people you know start to die. Though regardless the number of deaths that have hit home it never makes it any easier to deal with.

I remember my first experience with death when my grandfather passed away in 1986. I was ten years old. I can remember his funeral very clearly. I can also remember watching everyone cry and wonder what it all meant. It was almost like I was watching a movie. I wasn’t particularly close with my grandfather and really didn’t understand what death meant at that early age.

It wasn’t until I was twenty that I experienced someone else dying. This time it was my Aunt Karen who had cancer. While we didn’t really get a chance to see each other that often, she was someone whenever I saw her I was happy. I can remember she had bright red hair and we always were able to joke with each other. It was also my first time dealing with Cancer. It didn’t take me very long to realize how horrible of a disease it was.

The last time I saw my Aunt alive was about a month before she passed away. It was very important for me to visit her before she passed. I knew I had to see her one last time. I wasn’t prepared to see her in the shape she was. Her skin was yellow and her stomach was severely bloated, even her hair had faded to a dull red. I could see that her life was being slowly drained out of her by the Cancer and chemotherapy. I remember bringing her white daisies. I was told regardless where the vase was put in her room, the blooms would grow towards her.

When it came time to say my goodbye at her showing it was extremely difficult to face her. I can remember my Mom having to walk with me up to her casket. I was so afraid. When I walked up to her sleeping so peaceful I envisioned her waking up. I am not sure if it was a hallucination or some spiritual connection but I really saw her getting up. All I know is that it severely spooked me.

Later that year her husband, my uncle, passed away… He also had cancer.

All these deaths were expected, as they were sick. It wasn’t like it was any easier but it at least prepared you for the idea. The next death I encountered was my Aunt Fran in 1999. I was in my early twenties by then. I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom and I were out shopping for Halloween decorations for our family party coming up. Our family tradition was to have a big Halloween party every year with a haunt as part of the festivities.

As we pulled up my father met us at the door and said that something had happened with my Aunt and that they rushed her to the hospital by ambulance. I don’t remember what happened next other than that my Aunt had passed away of an aneurism. There was nothing that they could have done, it was quick and sudden, and she was gone.

This was the first time I really felt a high level of grief and of course shock because it was so unexpected and sudden. This was the first time I realized how fragile life was and how there was no guarantee for tomorrow. It also hit close to home because if someone close to me could die, so could my own mother. At the time I couldn’t imagine what my cousin was going through losing her mother at such a young age, she was only 50. Of course now I know…

My Mom and Aunt were close so it was particularly hard on her. It was tough to see her in deep pain. I was pretty close to my Aunt and I can remember every time she called our house she was always giving me a hard time. After she died it dawned on me that she would never give me a hard time again, and that made me extremely sad.

My Aunt Fran was the first person close to me that had died and I felt the harsh sting of grief. After her death we didn’t have another Halloween party for many years. Her death changed the family and it was never the same.

Five years would go by without any more deaths. As I grew older I realized it was only a matter of time before another death would take another loved one away. The next death was my Grandfather from my father’s side. We weren’t as close to his side of the family as we were with Mom’s family. I can remember feeling a sense of loss of getting to chance to get to know him better and never getting a chance to do so. He was also really the only grandfather that I was somewhat close to. My other grandfather passed away so young, that I really don’t have too many memories of him. Plus he was very sick the last couple years of his life.

So I also grieved over the loss of my last grandfather. He was the closest to a positive father figure for me. I have fond memories of him and my grandmother taking me up to their cottage on Lake Manistee in Kalkaska. Every time I would see him he was always so warm and jolly. I couldn’t help but smile whenever I saw him.

The next death really brought into question my own mortality when my Cousin BJ passed away at the age of 23 in 2006. At the time I was living in Florida. Again I can remember that day very clearly. My Mom called me to tell me the news. When she said his name beeg (that was his nickname), I thought she said Paige. Which set me in a state of panic because she is my niece and was only four years old at the time. I will say that after that moment, how I looked at death completely changed.

I can remember feeling so helpless being so far away from my family and wanting to just be with them. It felt like I was a million miles away. I wasn’t able to get a flight back home until the next day. Living so far away you lost the luxury of rushing back home in an emergency.

This was the first time someone around my age had died. BJ was someone I grew up with and while as adults we weren’t very close, it was a tough loss to deal with. He was someone I shared a decent amount of time with between birthday parties, family vacations, holidays and various occasions. It was extremely sad and tragic how young he was. It was also tragic that he was just starting to get his life back together.

After his death I became to fear death more to the point where I would panic when my loved ones were sleeping. I can remember countless times checking to see that my Mom was still breathing or panicking when she was sleeping thinking she had died. My biggest fear in life was losing my Mom. I honestly felt like we were invisible. I can remember thinking that God wouldn’t take my Mom early because she was a good person and so were my sister and I. Boy was I wrong…

A few years ago I started to force myself to prepare for the loss of my Mom. I can remember out of the blue starting to think about it. Now I realize something or someone was preparing me for that dreaded, awful day. While I began to prepare mentally I still thought my Mom would live to an old age.

You know how they say that people usually die in threes? Well I believe that to be very true. I am not quite sure why but I have experienced it on numerous occasions. The last few years was a domino death effect.

By now you have probably come to the conclusion that Cancer runs in my family. A little over two years ago my Aunt Thelma was diagnosed with a brain tumor and about six months later she died. While we weren’t particularly close, as she lived in Kentucky, she was again someone I was very fond of. I was always happy whenever they would make a trip up. I wasn’t able to see her before she passed and that was tough to deal with. I regret not being able to say goodbye and see her one last time.

This was another occasion I experienced the grief of the children of a parent, pure desperation and grief… you could see it in their eyes.

During the funeral service the preacher talked about not being saved and never getting to see Thelma again or something like that. This completely triggered me and sent me into another state of panic, so much that I couldn’t drive home to Michigan. Being gay in a Southern Baptist family didn’t make me very popular. At an early age, my father brainwashed into me that I was going to hell for being gay. I grew up in the church and it was all fire and brimstone.

As an adult to cope with spiritual abuse I had two choices, live in fear for the rest of my life or put away my spirituality. I took the lessor of the two evils and buried my spirituality deep within me. I got to a point in my life where hearing the terms God or Jesus would give me panic attacks. So I tried to stay far away from anything related to religion, even my Mom’s side of the family.

Being there that day unearthed my fears of never seeing my loved ones again. While I no longer believed completely that was the truth there was still a part of me that held on to that untruth. So much that I still struggle with it. I connected God to pain, misery, judgment and damnation. I saw God as this angry Judge, Jury and Executioner.

Recently it dawned on me why I have struggled to get my creativity back and that’s due to me hiding my spirituality. For me, I can’t have one without the other. It has been a slow and daunting battle to get connected back to my inner spirituality. I know that it is there but I struggle reaching for it.

The next death was something I honestly didn’t think was ever going to happen because my grandmother (mom’s side. All her grandchildren called her Mom Mom.) was in her early 90’s. She was tough as steel and I thought she would out live us all. About two years ago she was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. They removed the volleyball sized tumor but her body couldn’t take it and six months later she died.

Losing her was particularity tough for me for many different reasons. The first one that growing up we were close. She lived down the street from us and we saw her quite often. She didn’t drive so my Mom would usually be the one to drive her where ever she needed. Her and my Mom were very close. Losing her broke my Mom’s heart.

While I felt close to Mom-Mom growing up, that faded with adulthood. I held a grudge with how she treated me after I came out about being molested by the cousin she raised. She was someone who made it clear who were her favorites and who weren’t. After that it was clear that I was not her favorite.

When my parents split up my Mom and I had no place to go. So my grandmother let us stay with her but I was only allowed to stay for two months. Even though I had a job and was working on getting my own place, I had to go. She didn’t care that I had no place to go.

My hurt was too big for me to be around her, so I hide from her. Even when I found out that she had Cancer I didn’t come around that often. I emotionally couldn’t handle the pain. Part of it had to do with the fact that I avoided situations where I might possibly see my Cousin. Coming out about the abuse and being gay made me the black sheep of the family. Talking about the abuse was something our family didn’t do, they just swept it under the rug like it never happened. If you would only life up that rug you would see the countless skeletons that were buried deep underneath.

While I couldn’t be there for her during her illness, I was able to be there for her at the end… When it became apparent that she wouldn’t live longer than a few days I rushed to be with her. I put all my hard feelings aside and faced the chance of seeing some people I didn’t want to. At the time it was the toughest thing I had overcame, not only for having faced my fears but to see the process of someone dying. It was horrible to see a woman so full of life and spit fire, lay there motionless and pale… almost like a ghost… The only thing she could do was whimper. I knew that she wouldn’t make it til the morning. I honestly didn’t want to leave that night but due to the pressure of others I did… That night I couldn’t sleep… I had this vision of walking my grandmother into the light, where loved ones were waiting for her. I later found out that it was around the time she passed away. Soon after my Mom called me to tell me she had died. I rushed over to her house. Again I could feel the fog of grief and desperation.

Everyone was too grief stricken, so I went into action calling the funeral home and other family members who hadn’t heard the news. I even called the cousin who had bothered me, that was not an easy feat. When the funeral director came to pick up my grandmother it was important I stay inside, when everyone else couldn’t handle it emotionally. I didn’t want strangers handling her body without me watching. It was important that they took good care of her.

Again I experienced children grieving over the loss of their mother, now this time it was my own mother grieving over the loss of her own mother. I was amazed at her strength dealing with the pain. My grandmother was someone of great support for my Mom. They were very close and I wasn’t sure how she would handle her death. I don’t think she did either but I was able to see her inner strength come to shine. It was quite remarkable. I was reminded how strong of a lady my mother was.

Around the same time my grandmother passed, a dear old friend of mine passed away from Cancer. We had lost touch the last few years but he was someone I was always fond of. We became friends during a time in my life where I was in turmoil over the sexual abuse. His and his partners friendship meant the world to me. He was an old soul, very spiritual. He was also an amazing painter, painting these very spiritual life like pieces of art.

Every Christmas he would send me a home made Christmas  card. Even after I moved away he kept sending them. He had a very gentle, loving spirit. Whenever I was around him I could feel the warmth of his inner glow. I can remember the first time I met Stephan very clearly. He was a vegetarian and I told him I would try to eat his food. As much as I didn’t like vegetarian food it was important for me to try it, which was a huge feat for me as I am not really someone who tries new things…

He made me soy meatballs with vegetables. I ate the whole plate and politely turned down seconds. 🙂 From then on we became good friends. When I learned that he wasn’t doing very well, I was deeply saddened. I couldn’t imagine God taking away such a gentle spirit. This was the first time I had a friend who I was once close to pass away. I regret not being able to see him one last time or not being able to make it to his funeral.

By now death had become a familiar part of my life, though it never made it any easier. Especially for what would happen next. Around the time my grandmother passed away I started getting these thoughts of my own mother passing away. They would usually come to me out of the blue and were always quick thoughts. I forced myself to think about the idea, as scary as that was to prepare myself. Something told me it was something I need to do… I never thought that almost two years later my worst nightmare would come true.

I was in the middle of a nap before work when my sister woke me in a panic. She told me that Mom had been coughing up blood and we needed to take her to the emergency room. Obviously I wasn’t going into work. I can remember calling my boss and telling him that my Mom was coughing up blood and he was like we are really busy, do you think you could come in later? I am like HELL no, well I didn’t say that but I surely didn’t go in. I wanted to tell say something like are you crazy?

I will never look at an ER ever again the same. So much so that the last time I had to go to the emergency room I was horribly triggered by the privacy curtains. I was alone in the ER room and instantly I was transported to that scary day.

I wasn’t sure if my Mom would ever stop coughing up blood. I remember telling convincing myself that it was strawberry sauce, as I was very squeamish when it came to blood. I knew that it wasn’t normal for someone to cough up blood and I was obviously concerned. I just wanted the blood to stop and would have done anything to make it stop. I don’t think I had ever been so scared than I was that night. My mind raced to understand what was happening. If there was a normal amount of blood to cough up, this was abnormal. I felt so helpless.

That day our lives forever changed and things would never be the same…

After countless tests, scans and blood work the C word was mentioned. Especially after they compared a chest xray to one that was completed eight years ago that both showed an abnormality to her lower right lung. When it was confirmed that my Mom had Cancer my heart dropped to the ground. At the time we knew nothing about Carcinoid. I had never even heard of the term. When you think of Cancer the first thing you think of is misery and death. I forced to think about the death of my beautiful mother. It was a day I wasn’t prepared for.

She was diagnosed with Cancer in April of 2012 and by September of that year she was dead. Never in my scariest dream did I think this was to be so early. Granted my Mom wasn’t in the greatest health, as she would frequently get bronchitis and pneumonia but nothing would make us believe that this would happen.

Two years prior to her death, I started to get these premonitions of my Mom’s death. Losing her was my ultimate fear of all. Having those premonitions was very alarming but something told me to face them. Granted I had no clue that it would happen so soon. I now realize someone was trying to prepare me for her death. I honestly don’t know if I would be here today without having mentally prepared ahead of time.

When we drove our Mother down to Nashville, TN to have the tumor removed it never dawned on me that she could die. I am a major worry wart but even during her surgery I wasn’t freaking out. I was calm. Her surgery was a major success. Her doctor was able to remove the tumor and found that Cancer hadn’t spread to her lymph nodes like previously they had thought.

She was on the road to recovery. About a week after her surgery my Mom’s vitals started to deteriorate. They struggled to find a balance with her pain medicine that wouldn’t make her loopy but still managed the pain. She went from being out of it, to lethargic. She started to go into afib which they said was normal for a chest surgery. Her oxygen levels started to decrease as well. Something wasn’t right but my sister and I seemed to be the only ones to notice. By the fourth day of all of this, I noticed a strong odor and questioned the nurse about it… In which she said “oh, I didn’t notice it. She must have soiled herself.” She said that she would give her a bath, which three hours later she still hadn’t so my sister started to clean our Mom herself. That is when she noticed a brownish liquid coming out of her wound.

Finally they took notice. By the morning the xray showed that her lungs were filled full of infection and she would need to have another surgery to clean out her lungs. During the second surgery I was obviously more concerned but I still had confidence that she would make it through it.

Thankfully she made it through the second surgery but reality hit us all when the Doctor came out to tell us how serious her condition was. He stated that she wouldn’t have made it through the weekend without surgery. Of all the news prior, this hit me the hardest. This made me realize that Mom was not invincible and could die.

This time she was hooked up to a respirator and was sedated. Even though I was more concerned I didn’t doubt that she would recover.

Through the cultures they found they discovered that sometime that first week my Mom aspirated and became sepsis. The rest of her right lung was very damaged, and they found gangrenous tissue as well. Plus her left lung was now sick as well. They struggled to find the right setting on the respirator that my Mom tolerated. She didn’t seem to like that tube down her throat even when she was sedated. When they tried to turn off all the sedation, she went into a panic and her whole body began to convulse. Her legs and arms went crazy. My sister and I had to hold them down. It was a very scary moment for us.

They talked about putting in a tracheotomy, as they felt that my Mom would handle that better but the day they were to put it in she began to deteriorate again. She began to run a high temperature and her oxygen levels began to drop.

The next twenty one days was a constant roller coaster ride for my sister and I, as we watch our beautiful mother deteriorate as she so peacefully slept. During it all we never gave up hope, even when many doubted her stamina. Many of the Doctors told us there was little hope for recovery but that didn’t stand in our way of believing in the strongest woman we had ever known. We knew she would overcome it and in the end she did.

The day before her death, I awoke to a room full of doctors, nurses and staff surrounding her bed. It was like I was in the middle of a dream but yet I was awake. My Mother’s healthy lung had collapsed and they had to do an emergency procedure to install a chest tube. They were successful with the procedure and she started to improving slowly. Even then I still didn’t give up hope.

The next morning I again awoke to a room full of staff, this time her potassium had dropped to dangerous levels. I was told if they couldn’t get her levels to the normal range she would not make it. They advised me that they would put her on dialysis. I won’t lie I have never been more scared in my life. I prayed and prayed that she would make it.

Two hours into the dialysis, her potassium levels had increased but her other vitals had not and I was informed that she would not survive. I sat by her side and never gave up on her. Once the dialysis was done, she slowly began to drift away. Her heart rate slowed… lower and lower… I can remember this deep feeling of desperation and feeling out of control. I grabbed ahold of her and wept, as her heart began to give out. Five minutes seemed like an eternity and I just wanted relief. I went from disbelief to acceptance and told her it was okay for her to go home. They pulled her breathing tube out and not a gasp escaped from her lungs. Her body had gave out and it was time for her to return home. Finally her heart gave out it’s last beat and she had passed on.

I’ve never felt more alone than at that moment, as I stared at her worn out lifeless body covered in bruises and filled full of tubes. I finally realized how sick her and worn out her body was. She gave her all and fought fearlessly for twenty one days.

I had envisioned us living a life like Sophia and Dorothy from The Golden Girls. She was my everything but life had other plans. I know now that if she would have survived she wouldn’t have been the same lady as before and her quality of life was very important to her. As much as I miss her, I would not want her to suffer any more. She suffered enough on this earth. She is free from it all, including the Cancer.

Mama was always afraid of death. That was one of her struggles with having the surgery but she faced it like a warrior and didn’t let fear conquer her. I know that she went to heaven at peace.

It has only been recently that I have been able to use the terms death, die, etc. when it comes to my Mom. My mind knows she is gone but my heart still struggles to grasp it. The last nine months have been the hardest of my life and there have been times I wasn’t sure I would survive. There were even times I felt so desperate that I contemplated taking my own life.

This whole experience has also made me face my own mortality, including others close to me. When your Mother dies, anything is possible and you realize that nobody is invisible. The unknown becomes the scariest boogie man ever. I still struggle not knowing what I believe in when it comes to the afterlife. Now that I was forced to face death I have so many things that I think about, like what it is like to cross over? At times I struggle to grab hold of my own spirituality that I fear never seeing my Mother again.

I struggle with the concept that one minute a person is healthy and then the next they are not. Recently someone else I knew was diagnosed with Cancer in January and by May she had passed away. This experience has showed me how fragile life is and that there are no guarantees. I have struggled to get back on my feet and I feel like I am wasting valuable time. At times the grief is so crippling.

Any advice for those who also fear of losing a parent, is to force yourself to think about the day when they die and value the time you have with them. As hard as that may be, it will help you face that dreaded day.

In the end, we are all terminal. It is a wake up call to value even the littlest specks of life because eventually death becomes us all…

Getting Back On Track

So today I came to the conclusion that I need to look at my recovery and depression as I do with my dieting journey, that a set back isn’t final… it is just a step back… or as my friend calls it doing the cha-cha. As long as I keep moving forward that is what’s important. Each step back is an opportunity for me to grow.

The last month my train got off track and now I am working on getting my cars back on that healthy recovery track. Sometimes you get stuck and you need a push to get you back to where you need to go. That is where I was, stuck majorly.

I have learned that everything is connected from my depression to my eating habits to how I socialize with others. When one of those areas starts to falter, all the others will soon follow. Looking back my diet habits were a warning sign. Taking care of myself has been a up hill battle and as I continue to hike up that mountain, I have to expect an occasional fall. The key is to get back up and continue up that mountain.

So back on track I go. I am in the process of getting back to therapy. I have an appointment with the Michigan Rehabilitation Center which will help me get back into the workforce. I even got signed up with the state insurance. I am on a new anti-depressant. I am still on my diet (I still dislike that word) and plan to work on incorporating phsyical activities again aka Just Dance!

I also hope to become more social. When Mama died, I gave up on everything including having fun. I miss having friends to hang out with. I thrive having a group of friends.

The key with me is that I haven’t been thriving. I have been a wilted flower that has been pulled up out of the earth. As frightening as it may be I need to plant my roots back into this earth, that will be the only way I can be happy. Hiding in my cave just snowballs my depression to the point where I just want to die. Mama wouldn’t want that life for me.

This is the first time being away from my family for this long. I won’t lie it has been very difficult being away from them. After Mama died, I attached myself to them and held on for dear life. So much that I wouldn’t let go. Losing them has been my biggest fear of all, especially after Mama passed away. When your Mom dies anything is possible. You go into this intense state of panic. I think in a way I believe if I stay around all the time I can prevent bad stuff from happening but I know that isn’t the case. I couldn’t stop what happened to Mama and that made me feel completely helpless. I had to stand back and watch as my beautiful Mama faded away. Watch as she was surrounded my doctors, nurses, etc. I just wanted to scream and make her better but I couldn’t. I felt so alone and scared.

I think part of what caused this week’s depression episode was my mind and body coming to terms with her death. Even saying the words die, death, etc have been hard for me to verbalize. This is the first time I have really typed out those words. To accept her death was just too painful and real… but as time goes by it has a natural way of making you accept it, regardless how hard you fight it. By not seeing or hearing from her for a period of time it has made me come to terms with it.

It is still hard for me to believe that she has died but I am working on getting my life together again, that is what Mama wants. She always wanted the best for me.

So as tough as this will be I am going to do it for her and me. I deserve it. I also must remember as tough as it will be, it won’t be any harder than the experience of Mama being in the hospital and ultimately dying from complications of her surgery.

As my beautiful four year old niece says, Mama is always in my heart… and right beside me…