Knowing Alone

You don’t know.
I’m glad you don’t know.
There are so many things I know that I didn’t know before.
I keep learning things that I don’t want to know.

It hurts to be alone with these things I’ve never wanted to know.

Still, nobody can know them except for me.

I know sadness. I know pain. I live grief. But I don’t know what to say to you about your sadness, pain and grief. I know that words never brought me comfort.  Not much has made sense in the AFTER. I’m not saying that there aren’t words out there that can bring someone suffering a loss some comfort and peace. But I don’t know what they are.

I just know what you don’t know.

You don’t know how the most innocuous statements can trigger me so unexpectedly.  Like when my son was in his honor choir concert and the announcer man was talking about the importance of music in schools and thanking all the parents for getting their kids to the extra practices on time because that is a “part of parenting”.  Fine statement, right?  But I started crying. Because getting my kids to practices doesn’t seem like “part of parenting” to me at all.    It seems more like being “part of cruise directing”.  Because parenting for me is not about the logistics of getting 4 different kids to different places at the same times.  I have so many wonderful people helping me with that part.  Parenting for me is living, in my mind, the worst possible case scenario for anything and everything that happens with my kids. The phone rings and before I can pick it up I’m already sitting at Harborview at the bedside of someone I love waiting for the doctor to call time of death.  Reliving. Parenting for me is listening to my youngest son cry “I want to be with you” when I’m walking out the door for the fourth evening that week and leaving him with a sitter because I either have to work or attend another one of my kids’ events that will run past his bedtime.  It’s wondering what sort of damage I’m adding to what’s already been done.

You don’t know the sadness that comes with the knowledge that my support group has grown too large.  There are too many of us.  There is a waitlist to get in.  You don’t know that as much as we all need that support group, every one of us is ready to give up our place so that nobody has to be on a fucking waitlist to get some help.

You don’t know that my mind races so quickly I can’t even keep up with the thoughts.  Or maybe it races so I don’t get stuck on any of the more horrific thoughts.  Like how every time my pre-teen son gets upset and slams the door to his room, I am petrified–beyond petrified–that he’s going to hurt himself–because of something I said or didn’t say and because it “runs in the family”.

You don’t know how it actually feels like a physical punch to my gut-it practically doubles me over in pain, every time I walk into the preschool and see an announcement for an upcoming “Daddy-Daughter Dance”.  I know that sign is posted there.  But it’s like a sneaky, scary monster hiding behind the door that jumps out at me.  I am startled by it,  every single time. You don’t know this because there’s no way you would.  What you see is my Kristen suit and a smile on my face as I greet my little guy who may or may not be happy to see me (depending on whatever matters to a 5-year-old at any given moment).

You don’t know how difficult it is to watch one of my kids do something really cool (like the honor choir) and know without a doubt that my husband would be so proud of him.  But how sad it is for my husband that he doesn’t get to be here.  Even more sad for my kids who don’t have their dad in the audience to support them.  I can be present at as many events as I can physically attend, but I can never make up for daddy’s absence at these events.

You don’t know how I can’t get good mental health counseling for my children.  Good counselors do not accept Medicaid.  Counselors will accept cash.  I will give them cash to help my children.  But then I sit through session after session wondering why I’m listening to this person who is not there.  Who doesn’t know.  At the end of the day, there is just me.  I am the only person on this earth that loves and cares for my kids the way I do.  At the end of the day, I am alone in this parenting.

You don’t know how my 6-year-old daughter’s counselor has been listing off the characteristics of a child with ADHD and I’m thinking–“Holy shit.  She’s talking about me.  I have ADHD”. Then in the next moment I’m sitting on my hands to keep from tearing my hair out because what does this ADHD stuff have to do with my child’s anger and grief? I am paying CASH for fucks sake.  PLEASE stop reading this book to my child about how all dogs have ADHD.  I’m about to scream.

You don’t know how counselors that I pay CASH for come up with ever-loving complicated “systems” of reinforcement and consequences for my kids.  They don’t know how asking me to pull together and maintain this “system” is maybe the thing that will put me over the edge.  But I still try.  They tell me that I need to put together a “simple” collage book with my child-one that’s all about said child and daddy.  Put it in a plastic baggie and close it with duct tape so it can never get dirty or wet.  WHAT?  I don’t have time to check my kids’ homework, let alone spend time ALONE with one child (what are the other kids doing at this time?) to make a book that they can’t ever take out of the bag?  Maybe this is my newly, self-diagnosed ADHD kicking in-but I don’t understand the sense of that.

You don’t know how much my body shook as I held my mother-in-law last weekend because she is going in for major surgery and I know she is terrified that she won’t come out.  You don’t know how I locked myself in her bathroom and cried because–oh my gosh.  Because of so many things.  My kids cannot suffer another loss.  I cannot lose her.  I have grown to love her and appreciate her.  We have a relationship. She is Jake’s mother.  Jake would’ve been by her side every step of the way, giving her courage and making her laugh.  I have no courage to offer.  I have fear.

You don’t know how much I hate myself for wanting to do things for myself.  I’m not just talking about a “nice bath” or a girls’ weekend getaway.  I am not going to pretend to be selfless or some kind of martyr.  I want things too-things that don’t have to do with the kids at all!  But I know kicking and screaming and flailing myself around on the floor doesn’t actually work.  I don’t know how to make it work and if I figured it out-would I just hate myself for actually doing that thing for myself?  In our modern American culture, people give you lip-service about how moms need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their kids–the whole airplane/oxygen mask thing.  But then society frowns upon moms who do just that.  Because how are we supposed to squeeze in “me” time between extra honor choir practices, birthday parties, “mandatory volunteer hours” (okay what the fuck is that even supposed to mean?), work, counseling, laundry, sports practices, math team, school projects that are supposed to be completed with “limited parental involvement”, all while making sure our kids are eating organic, well-balanced meals, brushing their teeth WELL, flossing (haha), showering WITH soap, changing (and/or wearing) underwear, and taking them on field trips to homeless shelters so they can truly understand how privileged they are?   I want more than that.  I hate how selfish that sounds.  But that’s my true confession.

You don’t know these things, because how would you?  Just like I don’t know you.  I don’t know what to say to loved ones who have lost (or are losing) their loved ones.  I don’t know what to say to strangers who are suffering loss.  I don’t know what’s under your suit-the things that hurt you and scare you.  But it’s so important that I realize that I don’t know and you don’t know.  The best looking, fanciest, perfectly creased, cleanest suit could be hiding fear, pain, grief, trauma, illness, anxiety, nightmares, sadness, panic, anger, guilt, regrets and more.  I wish I had known more about what was under the Jake suit before it was too late.

 

 

 

 

The Second Summer (mishmash)

This one may be hard to follow.  It is a mishmash of what my brain has been doing so far this summer.  Get ready with your coffee, beer, wine, whiskey, weed…whatever…and have a seat.

Summers are so fucking hard. They used to be the best! I loved summers. Now summers are full of birthdays and “anniversaries” (I should come up with a new word because “anniversary” implies something good….something lasting and special. People don’t say “Sad Anniversary”. Have you ever heard that? I’ve only heard “Happy anniversary” or “Congratulations on your anniversary”. None of these really apply, do they? For the purposes of this blog–I’m going to create a new word…hmm…suckyversary? Badiversary? Sadversary? Fuckedupversary? Oh–I like that one. Fuckedupversary. New word. Created by Kristen.)

Okay-back to business. First and foremost, I want all my readers to know that I never, ever think “poor me”. Do I get sad? Yes. Do I get angry? Yes. Have I thought “Oh sweet Pete, I will never escape this for the rest of my life?” Yes. But I refuse to have a “poor me” attitude. I do not want my kids to think that either. I do think “Poor Jake” (pretty much always). But no matter what I say in my blogs, I never think “Poor me”. I try to keep in mind–number one–things could always be worse…much worse. Number two–Shit happens in life. I can choose to wallow in whatever comes my way, or I can choose to get out of bed every day and keep living–with a positive outlook. I can’t control everything the universe might throw at us. But as long as I have hope…I have enough. I do have hope. I have dreams, I have goals. I want my children to grow up and learn from watching me…..learn that bad things can happen, and some people have more than others, but this is it. We power through and remember bad things could be worse and more people have less than we do. Some people might take this the wrong way, but we are lucky. I believe that. So anyway-that’s all about a “disclaimer” I wanted to make about what I write. I might write about sadness, anger, guilt, shame, grief, etc.–but that never equates to “oh, poor me”. I’m just talking about my feelings and how we get through life without Jake.  At least that’s where I’m at today.  That’s good enough for me!

One of Jake’s best buddies, carried some of Jake’s ashes to the highest point in North America-the summit of Mt. McKinley.  I feel very fortunate that he had his fellow climber take a video as he spread Jake’s ashes.  For me, the video is intense and brings on goosebumps and tears.  But, when I watch it, I also experience a feeling of relief and maybe even happiness?  I watch it and know with everything in me that it was perfect for Jake.  At this point in time, there is no place else Jake would prefer to have his ashes spread.  If he were alive, he would want to be up there with his buddy.  That’s the kind of stuff that Jake loved and dreamed about.  It was perfect.

I have watched my 8-year-old son grow progressively more angry and destructive over the past two years.  He says things to me like “Why don’t you just run me over with the car?” and “I hate this life”.  He thinks he is angry about something so minute, like a pizza crust, but I know his anger comes from a much deeper place.  For Fathers’ Day this year, his classroom project was “Five Things My Father Taught Me”.  This is what he wrote.

Owen's 2016 Fathers DayOwen 2016 FD 1Owen 2016 FD 4Owen 2016 FD 3Owen 2016 FD 5Owen 2016 FD 6

 

To anyone outside of our family, this may seem like a perfectly lovely project and what a wonderful job completed by my son.  However, I look at these pages and it tears my heart to shreds.  It tears me up because Jake did not teach my 8-year-old these things–at least not all of them.  The very first page–the one about math-yes, Jake did teach him math at a very young age.  But, that’s all my son could remember about what daddy taught him.  Because the rest of the pages…do not apply to Jake.  By no means am I disparaging Jake.  Jake was an incredible and wonderful dad.  But, I know my son did not learn these things from him. My son struggled so hard with this project that he ended up copying a friend’s work.  There is no way his teacher or anyone else could have known this.  But I knew it as soon as I saw it.  I picture him sitting at school trying to complete this project and not being able to come up with anything besides math. No wonder he is angry. He doesn’t recognize on a conscious level what experiences like this do to him on the inside–to his heart and soul.  His entire existence was changed in the instant I told my babies that their daddy died, but he doesn’t think like that.  He just thinks he is pissed about an uneaten pizza crust–so pissed–that his body is shaking and he is ripping up grass and throwing around giant surfboards.  Well, guess what?  There are times I hurt so badly, I miss Jake so much–that I actually want to destroy things.  I want to lie on the grass and start clawing at the earth.  I want to punch walls and throw things.  So, I get it.  I just want to pluck that hurt and anger right out of him and I’ll take it all on myself.  I wish that I could do that.

This summer, I had the chance to visit with people I haven’t seen since last summer, which happened to be” The first summer” in the AFTER.  This year, (the second summer in the AFTER), I heard from quite a few people who mentioned that I seem so different from last year.  They were happy to see me smile, interact, and engage.  These people love me and they also recognize that this doesn’t mean I’ve “graduated” from my grief.  It just means that when they last saw me, I was withdrawn, sullen, and had a very flat affect.  I know that last summer I was still stuck–stuck in a fog filled with disbelief and wishes that I could go back in time.  I honestly couldn’t relate to anybody.  Couldn’t focus.  Couldn’t attend or engage.  I will never stop grieving for Jake.  But, people noticed a difference.  I’m still ditzy and forgetful.  What was important is that the changes people noticed were positive! They saw positive changes…in me.  Smiling=positive. Interacting=positive.  Engaging=positive.  I will gladly embrace the differences that people observed.  That is the direction I am working towards.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my mother and her circle of friends.  Her best friend (let’s call her “Elle”) passed away several years ago.  During “Elle’s” long illness, my mother was frequently flying back and forth from Seattle to New Jersey to take of her dear friend.  When I was growing up, “Elle” was like family to me.  I remember my mother in the kitchen, chatting away on a phone that still had a cord(!), to “Elle” for hours on end.  They showed up at each other’s homes without calling first.  They had a very special friendship. I found myself feeling down when I was thinking about my mother and “Elle”, because I don’t have an “Elle”.  I have so many friends and I love them and they love me.  But it’s not the same as it was with my mother and her friend.  Then I realized–Jake was my “Elle”.  He was that comfort and closeness and special person.  When he was sick, I took care of him.  When I was sick, he took care of me.  Sad, happy, silly, angry, funny or otherwise–Jake was the very first person I called.  (There are actually still times when things happen and my immediate thought is to call Jake and tell him.)  I had my “Elle”.  I lost him.  I just want everybody to appreciate your “Elle”s.

The dreams.  Lately, I’ve had an abundance of dreams about people who have passed away.  In my dreams they are very much alive but there is also some pervasive thought throughout the dream that says “Wait a minute–this can’t be. You’re not alive anymore.”  When Jake and I first started dating, he had a motorcycle.  It was yellow.  He sold it not long after I met him.  That motorcycle has been in the background of my dreams.  Every night my two littlest ones sneak into bed with me at some point.  Last night I dreamed that Jake was standing at the foot of the bed-watching over my little girl.  For almost two years now, I have believed in nothing. Death is the end.  There is no “heaven” or “other plane of existence”.  I have wanted to believe in something else.  I have wanted to believe so, so badly.  But the more I learned, the less I believed.  I recently had a conversation with a childhood friend (she happens to be “Elle’s” daughter), and she believes.  She has faith.  She told me about her thoughts and beliefs in a way that wasn’t preachy or condescending, and so I listened respectfully, but skeptically.  This amazing girl (well, she is a woman now–but she’ll always be the girl around the corner to me!)–without even trying–has me wanting to believe in something again.

I’ve been thinking about a lot of people.  Most people I know have been through some really rough times.  Some people are still going through them.  The people who inspire me, the people I admire, the people I enjoy being with are the people who are going through shit I can’t begin to relate to, but remain positive, even while they are hurting, grieving, suffering, etc.  Everyday, I work hard to “be like them”.  I don’t know if you folks all know who you are (there are a lot of you!), but you guys are my personal heroes.

Proof

Jake Valentine 1 insideJake Valentine 1

I came across this yesterday and can’t let go.  This. This is my proof that the Jake that I knew and loved existed.  Very accurate picture portrayal of the two of us–I have to say!

Some days I walk around in a fog wondering “How did I get here?”, “How could Jake be gone?”, and most disturbingly “Was he ever here in the first place?”.  This is my proof.  This was my Jake.  He was here.  And now he is gone.

I’m still extremely angry.  But, my anger is directed at Pfizer (maker of Chantix) and the Federal Drug Administration.  The number of suicides directly linked to the drug, Chantix, is staggering.  We’re talking thousands of people who have taken this drug, reported suicidal thoughts, and/or committed suicide.  These “adverse effects” have been reported in patients who have taken the drug for as little as two weeks.  I believe Jake was on it for 4-6 weeks.  In that last month, he wasn’t my Jake anymore.  He was a walking depiction of every “adverse effect” listed in the “black box”.

I copied the following directly out of the medication guide I found in Jake’s office after his death:

“Some people have had changes in behavior, hostility, agitation, depressed mood, and suicidal thoughts or actions while using Chantix.  Some people had these symptoms when they began taking Chantix, and others developed them after several weeks of treatment, or after stopping Chantix”.

What the FUCK?? SOME people?

“If you, your family, or caregiver notice agitation, hostility, depression or changes in behavior or thinking that are not typical for you, or you develop any of the following symptoms, stop taking Chantix and call your healthcare provider right away:

  • Thoughts about suicide or dying, or attempts to commit suicide
  • new or worse depression, anxiety, or panic attacks
  • feeling very agitated or restless
  • acting aggressive, being angry, or violent
  • acting on dangerous impulses
  • an extreme increase in activity and talking (mania)
  • abnormal thoughts or sensations
  • seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • feeling people are against you (paranoia)
  • feeling confused
  • other unusual changes in behavior or mood”
Jake experienced every last one of these adverse effects.  He did as directed.  He went to the Emergency Room on a sunny Saturday afternoon in August (4 days BEFORE it happened).  I was with him.  I heard everything he told the doctor and the social worker.  He told them he had been taking Chantix but had stopped.  (Please refer back to above warning listed above that some people have developed these effects “or after stopping Chantix”.  Jake told me, the doctors and the social worker that he never, ever in his life had a thought about killing himself until he went on that drug.  Jake was not seen by a psychiatrist that day.  The social worker gave him a pamphlet telling him to take a walk or a “nice bath” when he was feeling sad.  She also told him to start calling psychiatrists on Monday to get an appointment. Wait. What?
I could dissect everything I’ve mentioned so far into all of the things that are so very wrong about this story. But that will take a hundred more blog posts.  On that Tuesday, the 26th, Jake went to another doctor.  He went to see the doctor who had prescribed him the Chantix.  The primary reason listed for the visit was “Major depression”.  I don’t know exactly what transpired, I only have medical records to rely on.  But this doctor also let him go.  That day he ran 14 miles.  He was able to make an appointment with a psychiatrist for Thursday August 28.  But on the day in between–Wednesday, August 27th, 2014, those “adverse effects” got the best of him.
Why the fuck is this drug still on the market?  Pfizer holds no liability in Jake’s death, because he was “warned” that he might kill himself while taking it.  This is okay with the FDA? Several years ago children’s cough medicine was pulled from the shelves because a small group of parents weren’t following the dosing instructions accurately.  A few years ago, my favorite weight loss pill ever was pulled from the shelves because one person in Hawaii didn’t follow the dosing instructions and developed kidney failure (I miss you my magic purple pills…).  How does the FDA justify keeping a drug that actually causes people to kill themselves on the market?  Thousands of people (even more if you count loved ones) have been affected by this drug in the worst ways possible.  Oh, I remember now.  It’s because they put the warning about these “adverse effects” into a black box so physicians who prescribe or treat people using the drug will know what to look out for.  Yeah.  That worked wonderfully for Jake. Two doctors with their little black box warnings and they just said “take a relaxing bath”.  Another major issue with this drug is the insurance companies.  Most insurance will cover the cost of Chantix itself, but will not actually cover the cost of the doctor’s visits in order to monitor the patients taking the drug.  Everything.  Every little thing about this drug, is so wrong.
I might be biased because it is ultimately what took my husband’s life.
My brain gets stuck often on what happened to Jake.  The details of the time immediately before, during and after what happened run through my mind day after day.  That’s why I need to keep finding cards like the one I posted.  Because that was my Jake.  That’s my proof and a reminder to try hard to remember more of that Jake.
This is not over people.  I may not have cause to sue Pfizer or the doctors who “treated” him.  But I have a really big mouth (I’m a Jersey girl after all) and I am going to be talking.  A lot.

Sorry :(

IMG_1694

Dear Jake,

I channeled a lot of anger into my trail run this morning. so I’m feeling a little better than I was yesterday.  Yesterday…when I came across this “note” that you left for….me? The kids? Your mom? Your sister? Your friends? I came across it unexpectedly as I was trying to organize the house we moved into.  Of course, I burst into tears and the flashbacks have been haunting me ever since.

Fuck your “sorry :(”

You have no idea.  You have no idea what you were even “sorry” about.

I sent this to your best friend yesterday.  He said, “A brilliant guy with a dumb moment”.

In that moment, you were in pain.  You were in so much pain.  I know that.  But, I also know-that pain was temporary.  You took your temporary pain and left it for us-the people who love you, to live with permanently.  Forever.  You’ve broken us all.  For good.

The pain you left wasn’t spread out amongst all the people who love you.  The pain that you alone felt was left for every single one of us–for some, magnified times 10, times 100, times infinity+ 1.  It’s not temporary and it’s not just me, or your friends, or your mother, sister, family.  You left that pain for your children to bear for the rest of their lives.  Granted, the two littlest ones don’t get it–they think you are just in some other “place” and you’ll be coming back.  But they still hurt.  They still cry for you.  They tell me they want me to die so you can come back in my place and take care of them.  The two oldest–well, you know they are different.  The oldest wears his pain on his sleeve.  The second oldest is exactly like you-he doesn’t even know it.  He does and says things that he couldn’t possibly know are all you.

Jake-you left your pain for each one of your children-they will carry it for the rest of their lives.  You took away their joy and happiness of being with their dad.  They didn’t deserve this–and someday I’m going to have to tell them you were “sorry :(” ??  Fuck Jake.  They idolized you.  You were their hero.  You took that act and turned it into a possibility–an option for the people who loved and idolized you.  FUCK FUCK FUCK.

Your best friend’s wife was here for me during the year mark and as her voice cracked so I could hardly hear her, she told me how the day you did that was the “worst day” of her life.  She has lost her father, her brother, her beloved dogs–but August 27, 2014 was the worst day of her life.  You see?  It wasn’t just the worst day of my life, the kids’ lives, your mom’s life, your sister’s life, or your friends’ lives.  The pain you left behind is so far-reaching-so beyond any number I could even imagine. You are at the center of these never-ending concentric circles. You took away your temporary pain-and left it for all of the people in those circles to feel forever.

I know you didn’t know this.  I know you weren’t thinking clearly. Chantix altered your brain.  You never would have done such a thing to the people you loved.  You loved and gave of yourself so fiercely, so tirelessly.  My poor Jake-I guess I’m glad you can’t feel any regret, because knowing the pain you have caused to the people you loved, would have brought you more pain than you ever could have experienced or imagined. 

So for now, my anger is directed towards you.  Yes, it is interwoven with love and sorrow–this complex, intricate weaving of emotions that cannot be explained with words.  All I know for sure is that your “sorry :(” just doesn’t fucking cut it.

But, I love you from the bottom of my heart and your toothbrush is still here waiting for you.

XOXO K

The Angry Kristen

**10/6/2015-I started writing this post about a week and a half ago.  I was going to delete it because I was so angry when I wrote it.  I re-read it and realized how disorganized and crazy it sounded.  But, I’ve decided to post it anyway. Because this is what happens to me sometimes.  This blog is about how I live my life without Jake–and this is how it goes sometimes. You may not want to continue reading if you are easily offended. **

9/25/2015

I had to drop my oldest boys off at grief camp on Friday night. I will be picking them up today. I didn’t expect to react the way I did. I walked away and immediately started bawling. Sobbed for about an hour afterwards. Not because I missed them. I was so sad and so incredibly pissed off that I had to take my kids to a grief camp. They shouldn’t have to go to grief camp. They did nothing to deserve this–this sadness, emptiness, and confusion. These unexpected triggers tear me up inside.

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful that such a place exists. It is called Camp Erin and it is held once a year. It is free to the families that attend. It is run solely on donations and grants. The volunteers who work it are some of the most amazing people I have ever come across in my life. I wish I had the words to describe–but my words would never do this event/place/people any justice. It was another reason I found myself crying. I wish I had all the money in the world to support Camp Erin. I wish I had the words to express my gratitude that my boys were “fortunate” enough to attend. I have to pick them up today. I’m anticipating an emotional day ahead for me.

My little girl, age 5, handed me a picture she made the other day. IMG_1511  When I asked her to tell me about it, she pointed to the numbers.  She said “One mom, four kids, and zero dads”.  I don’t think I need to say anything else about that.  Anyone reading this can imagine the pain.  This is the way my little girl expresses her grief.  Holy shit.  I can’t believe this is my life.

My littlest guy continues to ask where daddy is, when is he coming home, why can’t we go see him, etc.  He won’t get it for a very long time.

I get asked questions like this a lot–“How are you?”, “How are you doing?”, “You doing okay?” or some version. I never know how to answer.  But I will say this–if I say I’m “fine” or “okay”–do not rejoice because you think I am “fixed” or “all better” or “past it”.  I will never, ever be any of those things.  I’ve said this before–my life has been broken into parts–the BEFORE and the AFTER.  I’m learning to live in the AFTER.  What has happened will always be a part of me.  When I tell you I’m “fine” or “good” or “even great”–there is always the caveat that I’m not the same “fine, good, great” as the BEFORE Kristen.  I was trying to come up with suggestions of other things you can ask a person in a similar situation.  It’s hard.  Even I don’t know what to say to other people under similar circumstances.  Maybe just a hug and “I’m always thinking of you” or “I think of you often”.  Don’t ask us “how we are”.  I know it’s such a natural greeting–it’s very hard to not ask.  If you see me smiling or laughing or having fun-just don’t assume I’m all “fixed”.  It just means I am having a good moment.  Which is good.  But not the same.

So, going along with this whole anger theme I have going on lately–if I were to make a list of qualities of the BEFORE and AFTER Kristen–many of the characteristics would be the same.  But in a different way.  I experienced anger before–I experience anger now.  But they are very different.  The AFTER Kristen is way more likely to tell you to “fuck off” than the BEFORE Kristen.  I was a compassionate person before–I am a very compassionate person now.  However, don’t expect me to stir up any sympathy for you when you complain to me that your husband is going away on a business trip to an exotic country for three weeks.  Fuck off.  Don’t complain to me about how busy you are with one kid who plays sports, has music lessons, goes to art class, and has tutoring just so he can “get ahead” on the MSP/WASL/SBA (whatever they are calling the state standardized test now).  Fuck off.

I am very easily overwhelmed.  I always feel like I’m on the verge of going over the edge.  The tiniest little thing that someone says or does has the capability to shut me down completely to the point where I can’t do anything at all.  For example, at work I needed to complete a task that I had never done before.  It was pretty simple and straightforward.  But I froze.  I couldn’t comprehend the simplest of directions of what I was supposed to do or the steps to take to accomplish this task.  I read the directions over and over again until I just shut down.  I couldn’t do anything.  I gave it a few days and tried again and completed it.  Don’t ask me if I did it accurately! I have no idea.  But I did it.  Another example, I was very proud of myself for being productive and making a ton of phone calls I needed to make and getting shit done.  Then I received a simple text telling me I needed to do one more thing.  Something small.  But again I froze.  I crawled back into my shell and couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Not one more thing.

I am also extremely sensitive to well-intentioned people giving me unsolicited “advice” on how to parent my kids.  My kids “need” this or “that” in some person’s opinion.  I am going to be clear about this.  Unless I ask for advice-do not tell me anything about what my kids need/don’t need or everything I am doing “wrong”.  This leads to irreparable damage to our relationship.  Every time something is said about what I need to do/not do–something inside of me breaks a little more.  I feel enough guilt, enough responsibility, and enough…”lack of good parenting skills” to fill me for the rest of my life.  I don’t need anybody else telling me or even “gently suggesting” to me, what to do. I do it enough to myself.

Speaking of “myself” (selfish Kristen coming through), I experienced the worst day of my life so far–something I never imagined happening in a million years on August 27, 2014.  I had no choice but to get out of bed everyday and somehow go through the motions.  I feel sorry for myself–yes.  Absolutely.  I want the opportunity to crawl into a hole and cry and punch things for a while.  Not forever.  Just for a little bit.  I’ve recently started doing some things for myself.  Pursuing new interests.  Some of these interests impinge on my time with my kids.  I had signed up for a dance class I had been wanting to take for a long time.  After I registered, I found out that my daughter (who is only 5) would be having soccer practice at the same time as my dance class.  I chose to continue with the dance class (which is only six weeks long).  Holy mother fucking shit on a stick.  You’d think I was beating her based on the reactions I got from some people.

**Updated: 10/6/2015–I’m not having an angry day.  But everyday I am sad.  I am sad about what Jake is missing out on.  I am really sad about what my kids are missing out on.  A lot of days I still don’t believe he’s gone forever.

I was obviously very angry when I wrote this post.  I have these days sometimes–I call them “fuck the world” days.  Actually, they are not usually whole days–but minutes, maybe hours.  But I want to make it clear that I am so grateful for who I have in my life. I am so appreciative for what I have in my life.  In loads of ways, I am very, very blessed and fortunate.**

Thanks for reading

XOXO

 

 

 

Fire and Rain

“Just yestIMG_1099erday morning, they let me know you were gone…”

So, the nightmares have returned.

I’m unsure what triggered them, but they are violent and so disturbing. A few weeks ago, I had my first dream/nightmare where I actually got to speak to Jake.  I knew I had a really short amount of time before he was going to disappear and I kept asking him, “Why?  Please tell me why?” I never got an answer.  I woke up wondering why I didn’t tell him how much I loved him and missed him instead.

The doctor had prescribed me some medicine that was supposed to stop the nightmares when I was having them before.  I never took it because of my skepticism of prescriptiIMG_1102on drugs overall, but also because this is a medicine that was originally created to lower blood pressure.  My blood pressure is already on the low side.  The doctors and the pharmacists assure me up and down that it is perfectly safe because it is such a low dose, blah, blah, blah.  But I have little faith.  The nightmares have been so consistent and so bad lately, that I ended up taking the medicine last night.  I did not have nightmares.  I’ve convinced myself that this was a coincidence and I am not planning on taking the medicine again tonight.

A few weekIMG_1104s ago, I received a message from many people regarding the post on Facebook written by Sheryl Sandberg.  It was beautiful and heart wrenching and I felt like she was speaking my own words.  I am in complete awe that she was able to articulate her feelings so eloquently after only 30 days.  Thirty days after Jake died, I was still in a complete fog.  I had to put “take a shower” on my to-do list everyday.  I never would have been able to focus enough to write something like that.  Nine months later, I still have moments/hours/days like that.  I continue to have a hard time believing that he’s not coming back.  I’ve started to work on getting my home ready to put on the market.  I look at Jake’s clothes, his shoes…and his stupid toothbrush and wonder why–why can’t I even consider boxing his stuff up?  I wonder where he is.  I look at a picture of him and think “But you are RIGHT THERE”–it doesn’t make any sense.  Then there are times I wonder if he ever existed in the first place.  Very difficult to explain that feeling.  I mean–I obviously know he existed–but how could he have been there one minute and gone the next?  Just gone.

So, Father’s Day is coming up and I am dreading it.  There are the projects the kids are making for their dads at school, the barrage of emails about the best Father’s Days gifts, and the nearly constant discussions about “daddy” in my house and in my car–everywhere.  My oldest talks about happy memories and songs that remind him of his dad.  My youngest says things like “Mommy? When you go to the hospital and you get dead, then daddy will come home”.  My little girl says “…..but daddy is really alive”.  We are going to do what we can to honor Jake on Father’s Day, but I know for me it is going to be a very sad day.  Then I wonder, did Jake think about Father’s Day on August 27, 2014?  Did he think about his kids and his family and Christmas and birthdays and fucking Tuesdays on that day?  Did he wonder how in the world we wIMG_1103ere supposed to celebrate holidays and just live our lives without him?  I vacillate wildly these days between sadness and anger.  Definitely experiencing the most anger I have felt since he has died and I’m not sure what to do with that.  I’m sure it comes out in other ways-misdirected at people who least deserve it.  What does a person do when they have so much anger towards someone who is dead?  I can’t scream or yell at him, I can’t kick his ass, punch him or kick him until he drops to the ground.  What do I do with these feelings?  The flashbacks and obsessive memories are getting stronger again.  I thought they were moving away-but I think I was just suppressing the thoughts and I have already learned that strategy doesn’t actually work.  Probably why the nightmares are back.  Wishing I had a DeLorean and a Flux Capacitor right about now.

Everything is different.  I am different.  I will never again be the BEFORE Kristen.  So, it’s time for me to take steps forward.  I feel very overwhelmed, so I need to make some decisions that will make my life less overwhelming.  Sell my house.  Be smart. Manage everything better.  Start making happy memories again.  Within eight days, I was able to cross two things off my “bucket list”–I’ve been rock climbing (which is way harder than it looks, all those people scampering up the sides of rocks like little monkeys), and I ran my first 1/2 marathon.  I’ve been wondering about what else I can achieve.  I have a lot to look forward to-I need to redirect my focus from always looking back. I keep telling myself–“you can do this, Kristen, you can totally do this”. But, it’s so fucking hard.  How do people do it?

I think (i.e. obsess) a lot about my last conversation with Jake.  I always thought I’d see him again.