So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving and as much as Terri and I are missing ma and trying to figure out how to navigate the holidays without her for the first time, I also know how many blessings I have in my life too. My son, my family, my friends, my career, my home, my comfort, and the list goes on. I don’t ever want to lose sight of these things regardless of how much I’m grieving. 🙂
One of my colleagues and I were talking yesterday and she shared that she lost her dad 3 years ago. She asked how I was doing and I said my pat response: “Ok.” She said that she completely understood and even after the years that have passed since her loss, she’s often just ‘ok’ too. We talked about the pain losing a parent triggers and she said that she still cries over her dad…misses him daily…and feels the pain of his loss as something that she just carries inside of her now. I feel so bad for her since she and her dad were so close and thank her for being so open with me. To know that the struggle is real…and is going to be inside of me since ma will always be a missed part of my world…validates what both Terri and I are going through.
I think that all women feel what I know I do: that we ought to be the self-less ones…the ones who don’t take the last piece of cake, or demand what restaurant we eat at, or let our own desires come before those of our families. Maybe it’s in our DNA…maybe it’s the way ma raised T and I…or maybe it’s what we’ve chosen to spend our lives doing.
I’ve been teaching since I was 19 years old…preschool, jr. high teaching assistant, elementary, high school and college…basically the entire gamut of ages and grades and no matter what the level, students need so much from you. And, since I teach psych and socio and talk about some pretty difficult issues and struggles, so many students come to me for advice…comfort…direction. And honestly, it helps me as much as them. I want to the be the one to be leaned on. To be needed. To give to others because it makes me feel so good. T is the exact same way…her work as a private nurse and then the kind of grandma she is to my amazing nieces and nephews shows the size of her heart and her willingness to give all she has of herself.
I think all of this is why I’m finding it so hard to reach out to people who have offered support. When friends or family inquire about how I’m coping and handling things, more often than not I say “I’m fine!” to them. I want to recognize their pain first…their issues first…their needs first. I don’t want to burden them with mine…put anymore on their own shoulders…admit I need help.
I guess I don’t ever want to be seen as selfish and for me, asking for help puts me in that position. I jump on my own roof to clean out my gutters…move tons of rock by myself…teeter on ladders to paint my ceilings…put drops in Edward’s ears alone since it can be messy, and honestly, just doing this one task truly does show my inner strength. I think O and my next door neighbor would agree. 🙄
I’m also self-conscious about always being down. As I think all of us who experience depression can attest too, we soon learn that there’s often not a lot of compassion for us; or if there is, it dwindles as we continue to be down. If I asked how many of you have heard “Just cheer up!” “You’re so lucky for what you’ve got!” “Don’t you realize how bad off others are?” all of your hands would probably go up. We often feel guilty for suffering from something that’s inside of us…not something we’ve created. Likewise, those of us with bipolar who cycle through manic states hear similar sentiments: “Slow down!” “Just stop!” And my personal favorite: “Just calm down!” GRRRRRR!
So, we learn to mask our emotions the best we can so we don’t hear the frustration, weariness, and even at times contempt, in other’s voices. Maybe I’ve been doing this so long I simply can’t stop. I don’t want to seem needy or weak or lost. But just between you and me my sweetie peeps, I feel needy and weak and lost. And what is so so hard to realize as well is that ma is the one who made me feel needed…and strong…and anchored. She was the one I could be all these things too and have total, always unconditional, acceptance. Isn’t it ironic that the one I need most in my world is the one who’s no longer in it?
I know that I need to open myself up to the support being offered but genuinely don’t know how. “Can you come over and keep me company?” How can I ask that when they have their own lives to live? “Will you sit down with me and look at a photo album I made while I talk about all the memories that are between the covers?” How can I take up their time hearing my stories and seeing me cry? “Would you mind running some errands with me because being alone 90% of my time just gets to be too much and having company would feel so fucking (sorry, ma) good?” How can I force someone to spend time with me when I can always handle things myself? “Can I call and chat for a while?” How can I make myself be a pest to someone who’s so busy themselves?
I understand that this is a ‘me’ problem. An “I don’t know how to do this” problem. And I also know it’s keeping me from starting the work I know I need to be doing…not just getting through each day so busy that I don’t have time to think. That’s beginning to not work for me now and with Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas all within the next month, those triggers are going to be mighty hard to ignore.
Terri and I both need to cut ourselves some slack…be kinder to ourselves. We need to stop feeling guilty for asking for help and for feeling selfish when we do. We also need to be able to start saying ‘no’ to things that will take away from what we are personally able to handle right now. Reversing decades of feeling bad about ourselves when we were depressed or struggling has made it’s imprint…it may be a while before we can let some of that go.
Every night I thank God that he gave me a ma that I miss so fucking much. She was such an amazing mother and the love I have for her is undefinable. It’s a blessing to have experienced what a lot of others haven’t been able too. And I’ll be thankful for that forever.
Happy Thanksgiving, peeps…thank you for your kind messages and sweet words. They are truly appreciated more than you’ll ever know. 💘💘💘
Love you ma. Love you more.