The truth is, feelings scare the shit out of me. I've worked with a life coach to learn how to allow the feelings to come. I've learned that feelings are just vibrations in my body that can't hurt me. I've recognized that I've done everything I can to avoid feelings but that they don't just go away. They come back to haunt me. They cause anxiety and panic and other physical symptoms. They stay stuck in my body. They need to be released. I've started working with a tapping coach on some really heavy stuff. We are digging deep. We are going back to the beginning and unpacking it all. She taught me that in order to do the work, all I have to do is tell the truth. And then it hit me. Maybe there is a difference between talking about what happened and really telling my truth. I mean really admitting to the ugly, shameful, judgmental thoughts and feelings that I think nobody should hear. The ones that I think make me a terrible person. The ones that I'm afraid to say out loud. The truth isn't easy. It isn't always popular or acceptable or pretty. The truth can cause pain. It can hurt you and it can hurt people you love. But it can also set you free.
The truth is that I'm really fucking angry. Not just mad or bitter or disappointed. Like blood boiling, wall punching, tears streaming down my face angry. Hostile. Furious. Pissed. And I've been carrying it around for a very long time. But it isn't feminine or beautiful or even allowed for women to show any form of rage. Nice girls don't get mad. Sane women don't lose their shit. So I've quieted it down and tucked it away. I use sarcasm and humor to hide how I truly feel. I play the widow card. I blame negative feelings on hormones and motherhood and grief. I make jokes that I'm crazy. I say I'm probably overreacting, making a big deal out of nothing, being too sensitive. Because that's what I've always been told. And because of that, I tend to second guess how I feel. But I'm angry that it takes so much of my time and energy trying to learn and heal and grow in order to repair the damage that other people have done to me. I'm angry that the affects of my trauma feel out of my control. I'm angry that now it's up to me to find a way to convince my mind and my body that the trauma isn't happening to me anymore. I'm angry that I can never feel safe. It makes me want to scream. But that probably wouldn't be acceptable.
The truth is that I am sick and tired of being told how strong I am. People have been telling me this my entire life because that's how long I've been overcoming adversities. I have been given this title from the beginning so I have always felt I've had to live up to it. Just once I want to fall apart. I want to break down. I want to cry out loud. I want to ask for help. I want to admit that I can't do this alone. I want to stay in bed. I want to hide. I want to call in sick. I don't give myself any other choice but to get up each day, work hard, fight the demons and keep going because that's what is expected of me. I hate the idea of being weak as much as I hate the idea of letting anyone down so I keep pushing.
The truth is that I loathe other people's advice on how to survive grief. Hang in there. It just takes time. You need to be strong for your son. Just know he's watching over you. You'll be okay. You're a great catch. You will find someone else in no time. He's in a better place. I know how you feel. Everything happens for a reason. God has a plan. It could have been worse. You can't be sad forever. God never gives you more than you can handle. Ugh. I'm sure people mean well. Or maybe they don't. Unless you are part of my team of experts, my inner circle or my support group for widowed moms, I am not convinced you understand how I feel. And if you do, my deepest condolences.
The truth is that I need to worry all the time. It's how I protect us and to prevent more bad things from happening. Worrying makes me feel like I am taking an active role in being prepared. I know logically that this far from the truth. But in the whirlwind of anxiety, not worrying feels careless. It feels irresponsible. It feels ignorant. And the idea of letting it go paralyzes me. My anxiety is my shield. It allows me to keep playing small. It prevents me from trying new things. It stops me from leaving my comfort zone. It would be easier to just stay in the cave. It might even be an excuse. And if I let it go, I will no longer have that crutch to lean on. I might actually be expected to function at full capacity. Like a normal human being. And that's terrifying.
The truth is I've been so wrapped up in my own journey that I have forgotten that other people must grieve my husband too. He had friends and family and coworkers that all love him and lost him. And I have no idea how to support any of them. I don't reach out. I don't ask if they are okay. I don't even try. Because I'm afraid. I failed so miserably with him. I didn't recognize that he needed help. I couldn't save him. And now he's gone. I'm afraid to try to be there for anyone else. It has taken every ounce of my being to get through this thing in one piece. I have done everything in my power to heal my son and myself. I have nothing left for anybody else. And I carry so much guilt.
The truth is I was crazy about him from the very beginning and it got complicated in the very end. He was a lot to manage. But he had a way about him that made it impossible for me to be mad. He had a smile that made me fall apart. He knew how to make me laugh. He loved me no matter what. He wasn't always present. He didn't always participate in our every day life. We didn't always see eye to eye. I mistook his burnout for lack of interest. I assumed he was just working too hard. He was distracted and edgy. He was distant. He wasn't himself. I never thought for a minute that he would end his life. And I never guessed he would have an affair. But even though he broke my heart, he was the one. I don't know how to get over someone while still loving them. I don't even want to try.
The truth is happiness makes me uneasy. The minute I catch myself starting to breathe and feel the slightest bit content, my radar goes up. Something is wrong with this. This can't be right. This foreign feeling can't be good. The other shoe is about to drop. I can just tell. If I've learned anything it's that bad things can happen. And they do. Somewhere along the way, I became stuck in fight or flight mode. The problem is, there are no tigers chasing me but there is no off switch either. It's physically impossible for me to relax. I startle easily. Loud sounds make me jump out of my skin. And when I feel a sense of joy or peace slipping in, I fear that it will all be pulled out from under me.
The truth is that I contemplate whether to write in the past or present tense. To write in the present implies that I am still currently experiencing grief, anxiety and all the big, ugly feelings on a regular, daily basis. To write in the past tense would incorrectly imply that I'm all better now and all the trauma is behind me. I am somewhere in between. I still struggle more than I like to admit. I get overwhelmed by dishes and appointments and last minute changes to plans. I need structure as much as a kindergartner. People often comment on how organized I am with my to-do lists and color coded calendars. This is actually just a coping skill. Part of my bedtime routine is to schedule the following day down to meals, showers and what time to leave the house. Without a game plan I feel nervous, scattered and overwhelmed. It is unnatural for me to go with the flow. It makes me feel out of control. So it's not so much that I have it all together but that these tools are what keep me sane.
The truth is the more I tell my story, the more I see how much I have endured. All the bad memories and fears I've been shoving down all these years. It all makes sense to me now. I can see where my anxiety comes from and why I have the triggers that I do. I can understand what I've had to do to survive. It seems so obvious now. When I slow down and listened to myself talk about the past, I have a better understanding of who I am and why I feel the way I do. And instead of being hard on myself for being imperfect or for making mistakes, I have so much more compassionate and understanding. I speak to myself kindly and give myself grace. Of course I would feel this way. So would anyone else who has been where I have. It makes perfect sense.
The truth is there are gifts in my loss that I don't yet know how to celebrate. Without grief, I never would have started working on myself. I wouldn't have started healing all of these wounds. I wouldn't have found my widow community. I wouldn't have found my purpose. I may not have started writing again. I would still be hiding from all of my fears. I would still be in denial about how I really feel. I wouldn't be brave. I wouldn't understand that I can handle anything that comes my way. And I can't help but wish that he was here to see what I've become. But it's because of losing him that now I'm the me that I'm meant to be.