Thursday, June 7, 2012

Shedding My Emotional Duct Tape

Anxiety has been my constant companion the last few days.  I really don't know why.  Some moments during the day I can feel almost normal, but before too long, that anxiety washes over me like a wave breaking on the beach.  I feel panicked, overwhelmed, like I can't take a deep breath,and not able to focus on things.  It makes me want to retreat into a small, safe quiet place...and there is no quiet in my house!  So I close my eyes, take some deep breaths, ask for God's assistance and just take things one moment at a time.

It was the anniversary of Therese's death on Tuesday.  I did not have the emotional whirlwind that I felt around her birthday.  I wonder if the anxiety is somehow linked to loss....sometimes our bodies remember things in ways that are different from our present thoughts.  I thought the anxiety would get better after Tuesday, but it really hasn't.  Maybe a little, but it's still wreaking havoc on my ability to function.

Therese died on June 5th in 1998.  Her funeral was on June 6th.  The deep, dark depression started on the 7th.  I don't think I really left my bedroom for a few days...just laying on the bed staring at the ceiling as the time went by.  I was feeling complete nothingness...emptiness...darkness.  Jay was home taking care of the boys because I could't care for anyone.  The boys had been such a source of comfort to me while Therese was alive and we were facing her impending loss.  When she was in the hospital, Jon would climb into my bed in the middle of the night to snuggle and I would embrace his chubby little body that was so warm and healthy and alive and it would comfort my soul that was already filling with grief.  But, after Therese's death, seeing the boys just made the reality that I didn't have my baby girl even more painful.  Looking at them laughing, playing and living enveloped me in emotional pain that took my breath away.

Back then, I was incredibly sleep deprived from the events of the previous 2 and a half weeks.  The night Therese died we had slept for less than 3 hours..and it was broken sleep.  After she died, I suffered from horrible nightmares.  Recurring dreams of being in a hospital with an empty bassinet looking for my baby...waking up multiple times a night in tears.

 I broke down in Jay's arms in the evening of June 9th...crying over and over  "I don't know what to do!", "What are we going to do?".   But there was nothing that could change the reality that our baby had died...nothing to stop the pain or take it away.  I was drowning in the darkness of grief and depression and despair and wanting to die myself....I was so scared of how out of control I felt in my grief and the scary thoughts I was having.  I scared Jay...enough that he left the house to talk to one of the priests that had walked with us during Therese's short life.  The priest, Fr. Pat, said he would pray for me that night.

The next morning, Jay's birthday, the despair was lifted.  That was a gift.  I wanted to go to confession that day and talk about all the scary feelings I had.  I was able to talk to Fr. Pat.  I also broke down while talking to him when I told him about the nightmares.  He prayed over me, and from that night on, the nightmares stopped.(Thank-you, God!)

I was INCREDIBLY emotionally fragile for a long time.  I should have gone to counseling right after Therese died.  I would have saved my family and myself a lot of grief.  Instead, I picked up my shattered life and put it back together the best I could and wrapped it in duct tape.  It was never pretty when those broken pieces cut through the duct tape and I fell apart occasionally over the next several years.  It wasn't until I was pregnant with Ellie, and really fell apart, that I got the help I needed, and that was 5 years later.

I had severe anxiety attacks after Sarah was born.  Anytime I drove in the car I would have these moments of extreme panic that she had stopped breathing.  The feeling would make me catch my breath and I would reach back into her car seat and put my hand on her chest to make sure she was breathing.  This feeling didn't happen every once in a happened every three or four minutes for the entire time I was driving!  It was emotional torture.  I needed help but never even told anyone about how I was feeling.

The worst moment of panic was when Sarah was a couple months old.  Jay and I had all four kids in Toys R Us.  I had Jon sitting in the seat of my carriage with Sarah in her car seat in the main part of my carriage.  Jay had Mike and Andrew in his carriage and was walking right behind me.  We were walking down an aisle with one of the employees up on a ladder.  All of a sudden, that extreme panic took over.  I stopped, yelled "Oh my God, where's the baby?"  in a completely frightened, hysterical voice.  Jay had pure terror on his face and the employee almost fell off the ladder!  Jay looked at me and said, "Michelle, she's right in your carriage!  She's right there."  To which I answered "Oh" and kept walking...pulling my duct tape a little tighter.

Poor Jay must have felt like his wife was losing her mind!

It would almost be a laughable memory if it didn't make me want to cry for the broken, grieving mommy that I was who desperately needed help but didn't ask for it.

Memories can be hard....and sometimes they envelope you when you least expect it!  But going through the emotions, instead of trying to stuff them back inside and hold it all together with duct tape!, brings healing and peace.  It's not convenient, and it's certainly messy, but it's worth it to let God fix those shattered pieces.

Besides, I need the duct tape to hold our dryer door closed until our new part comes in!  You might be a redneck keep your dryer door shut with camo patterned duct tape!(Yep, that's us!)

Thanks for sharing my messy memories......