November 20, 2017
To whom it may concern,
Today is the 8th anniversary of the worst day of my life, and to fit accordingly—please know that if you are continuing to read this—you’ve signed up for a shit show. I have to get this out and clear the slate. I attempted to circumvent the hard words up until now, but I am in a spot that it feels necessary just to call this what it is.
I get frustrated with this blog.
I sometimes find myself repeatedly typing out the uncomfortable phrases. “MY MOTHER DIED. My mom is DEAD. Death. Deceased. Died. MY MOM FREAKING DIED!!!”
So…yeah, these blog posts are based on my fixation with my deceased mother. My mom died―several years ago—and I still deal with a complicated grief that sometimes drives me crazy. I recognize that my sadness becomes a bit egocentric from time to time, as do my posts. This blog has been equal parts empowering and embarrassing.
I attempted to write this blog in the stages of grief in order to find some resolution for each stage. Which, admittedly, has just been a mess. When reading about Dr. Kübler-Ross and her theory of the stages, I have to reference a solid point that I was unaware of until recently.
“[The stages were] never a study of grief and bereavement. It was a discussion of some key emotional reactions to the experience of the dying. Yes, grief was a part of that experience, but it was not the totality of the experience.”
Whoops. Well, I am not knowingly dying today (spare me the philosophical thinking for now), so I am not experiencing the form of grief that was intended to be associated with the stages. I did, however, take on the unique emotions with the denial and anger stages of grief with bereavement.
I started this with the idea that I would finish 50 letters, and I still intend to write them all, regardless of how long it takes. I struggled with figuring out what to write about for the bargaining stage and introducing that bit was a tad absurd. But this stage has certainly been the hardest to sit down and define.
(Cue: Initiate sing-songy voice)
I am clinically, chronically depressed!!!
My depression existed long before this grief. For as far back as I can remember, I have had a mind that manifests negative thought patterns and sought attention to heal them. I have struggled to pull myself out of this habit. It’s been an excuse, a frustration, an impairment, and ultimately a challenge that I find myself now working to overcome. As I have mentioned several times before, I make progress with medication (unfortunate, but absolutely necessary), meditation, simple physical activity (basic yoga, walks, hiking, etc.), and now sobriety and my education.
Although, sometimes these are the very things that hinder my growth. I have gotten too busy with school. I get easily frustrated with myself for losing the regularity of being physically active. I abandon the idea to stop and practice meditation when the timing is not feasible. When I finally have a drink that breaks my sobriety stretch, I feel a sense of failure, despite having met my goal. I neglectfully snooze alarms that help me keep track of my medication intake and forget whether or not I have actually taken it. Last year, I struggled with the most contradictory symptom of one medication and was stuck with suicidal thoughts for many months.
I spend a lot of time analyzing my own psychology. I tend to struggle to just be at peace with where I am in this long process of rerouting my thoughts and habits. I lose purpose, and I begin to think hard about what is worth living for. Existential crises are no joke.
I have learned a great deal about the brain this semester.
I have grown more aware of how big of a role my somatic responses were in inhibiting my growth. Enduring the traumatic experiences of…
- My mother’s overdoses and the horrid images that came with them,
- Rough fights that I had with my mother, and close family, surrounding her own frustrations and addictions,
- Visiting my mom in a psych ward in Southeast Texas,
- Being excluded from her rehab experience by her choice,
- The heartbreak and personal guilt after discovering my mother relapsed,
- And eventually getting the news that she died of medications she was prescribed to by doctors (sidenote: methadone-therapy rehab is a joke)…
…all in the last couple years of my adolescence and early adulthood, compounded an utter mess in my brain. With a developing limbic system and the synaptic pruning still going on in my prefrontal cortex, my life did not treat that last episode of brain development very fairly. I am convinced I did a poor job of constructing my neuropathways, and they have been fairly out of whack for years.
The retraining of my thoughts is no easy feat.
I constantly have to whisper absurd affirmations to myself. “One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.” “You can do this, you can do this, you can do this, you can do this.” “This sucks, but you know you HAVE to, Kelli.” “Just make the bed.” “Do yoga; maybe? Yes.” “You look strong and awesome today. Those cigarette-made wrinkles will look even tougher when you’re in your fifties and that’s ok (but don’t get any more!).”
Last semester, I read a line in one of my textbooks that read something similar to “behind much human despair is an impoverished self-acceptance.” I believe that.
But grief is lame.
I keep digging for new ways to reconnect with my mom.
I randomly stumble on golden nuggets that help me re-evaluate the way I have seen things in the past (songs are a huge help).
One revelation (golden nugget)—that I had just this weekend—shoved me into a picture-flipping frenzy, and I’m so grateful for moments like it. When I was trying to find something in my keepsake box that might be able to bring me back to a memory with her, I felt bored due to having so many pictures of me as a kid without her in them. Then it hit me.
Wait…Damn…She was probably the one taking the pictures!
I flipped through almost every childhood picture of mine that I own and broke out into some warm and comforting tears. I could feel her pride through each of them, and I felt her love in a way that I haven’t been able to connect with in a long time.
After 7 years and 363 days, I found a nugget of joy in this grief, and I am soaking that in again today.
As always, I appreciate your time here very much. Thank you for any and all of your encouragement.
(Cue: End sing-songy voice) …kidding.
A couple of quick reads:
- Mark Manson articles are a godsend for emotional cynics.
- This article made me wish I was a mother now, and I befriended the author of it on Facebook because I am a proper weirdo.
Here is a song for you—if you are struggling also, we can work together: