July 7, 2020
Your Life Is Changed When the Lights Go Out
It's ironic that I am writing about this topic today... for I am struggling... as usual... on my taxes. The irony - before Andrew died, I always did our taxes. I loved the thought that I could actually read government forms, understand them, and put all the needed information together to complete them. Now in those days, it was a lot simpler. We used the "short form," and now with two s-corps and mounds of receipts, invoices, and other junk, it is not as fun. But... I'm sure if I took the time, I could do the 2 hours of work that it takes my accountant after I have spend 100 hours pulling it all together. But I cringe... I procrastinate... I can't deal...
The year Andrew died (April 2, 1998) it was just a few days before taxes would be due. Normally, April 2 would not have distressed me in the least. But after that fateful day, I just did not have the heart to do taxes. I asked Mr. Tommy Johnson (such a good man and great accountant for years in our area) what should I do. He told me that he would take care of it. And for several years until he went to retirement, he did just that. It may seem weird that something as simple as taxes is so debilitating for me, nevertheless I struggle every spring. But when you think about Andrew's death date and the tax deadline so close, maybe it makes sense to someone. I rarely meet the April 15th deadline. Thank goodness for extensions.
When Andrew died, I had a jungle for a front porch. But it was a beautiful jungle of luscious greenery. Since his death, if you see a jungle, it's a natural jungle, not my beautiful ferns, airplane plants, wandering Jew, and so many other plants I had in those days. It's probably briars and some type of grass you see. I completely lost my desire to have plants, specifically ferns, after his death. I'm still waiting for it to come back, and each year, I attempt... to no avail... I just lost the spirit to have them around me.
I think the main reason for this is that Andrew loved to take a spray bottle filled with water and mist my ferns for me every day. He and Gideon were my gardners. They made sure my jungle stayed alive and beautiful. I even had a greenhouse back then. We had made some fascinating discoveries when the most beautiful iris bloomed in February in the greenhouse. After his death, I got rid of the greenhouse, and the ferns and the rest of the flowers died by the next spring. Part of my heart had grown dormant.
I still wait for it to re-sprout. Every year, I think this will be the year... Every year to this day... it remains buried in my grief.
I find I also struggle with other things... like weight... sirens... other people driving... sad movies (I will NEVER watch Jack Frost again.)... Yes, even after 22 years, there are still those moments.
People who tell you that your life will return to normal one day do not understand grief or loss. Your life will never return to normal. Not the normal you experienced before the death of your loved one. But that doesn't mean you cannot experience happiness or fulfillment again. You just have to readjust.
I've not studied PTSD extensively, (although Dr. Law from USA thought I had a pretty good grasp of it in one paper I wrote for him), but I know a little bit about it. I know what anxiety feels like when I think a car is out of control. I know how terrified you can be thinking your only living child may be in danger. I know what it does to me when I hear a siren of any kind near me. It is a struggle to retain composure... still to this day... 22 years later.
But I think the greatest weapon against PTSD I have is knowing what it is. I know what to look for. I know the events that will make me a nervous wreck, and therefore I brace myself for them. I'm sure Gideon Odom wishes I didn't have so many issues... for I blow up his phone anytime there's an emergency nearby or I feel he might be in danger. But if I can hear his voice, see the green light on his social media, or get a little ding of his text, my anxiety subsides.
Poor Ray has to deal with my anxiety in the car for the most part. Bless his heart. He is a trooper. I am a horrible passenger. But I try to be good. Usually I take my computer with me and work... or play solitaire on my phone. (If I knew the rules of the game, I might be pretty good at it by now.)
I see-saw on weight. COVID-19 is winning at the moment. But like others feel the call of the wild... I feel the call of my gym (personal gym that my husband has graciously provided for me). So... I am determined to start back downward on that issue.
Writing these very personal things about my grief is not easy for me, even as much as I love to write. It's taken me 22 years to have the courage to do it. But I feel if it helps one person feel somewhat normal as he/she travels through his/her personal darkness of grief, then... I can just deal with it. I guess if I would want you to know anything about today's topic, it would be this:
1. Yes, your life will change. Somethings will never be the same. If you struggle with PTSD, please get help... professional help, close friends, church family, pastor, someone who will help you through the process.
2. Do not beat yourself up when you struggle. Identify the triggers, and then learn to cope with them by either overcoming them or replacing them.
3. Have patience with others who do not understand your issues. If they have never suffered from PTSD or have similar triggers, they do not understand what you are dealing with. They only want you to be okay.
I have great hope that one day I will get my taxes done on time without anxiety.
I have great hope that one day I will have the greatest greenhouse and most beautiful porch in the community.
I have great hope I will be skinny again...
Much love to those of you who do the same.
To Be Continued!
SIDEBAR: If you feel you suffer from PTSD, and your symptoms have become unbearable, I beg you to seek professional help! I know the Mayo Clinic is not the only place, but it is a start for information. Your life is valuable. You can recover!