Writing 101: Serially Lost

losttime

Losing someone special or something that you care a great deal about is very painful, yet it’s something that everyone has to deal with and process in their own way and in their own time.  I lost 2 very special people, within a few months of each other and I’ve been thinking all day about which one I should write about and how to approach this post.  But as I sat down to write, I realized the greatest loss I have had in my life is losing the last 5 years to an illness.

When you lose a person, there’s a grieving process and the pain and sadness ease up after a period of time, but what happens when you lose your life to an illness and I don’t mean death, I mean having to figure out a way to live a purposeful and happy life, while you lost your previous life.  Grief associated with an ongoing illness isn’t as finite as losing a loved one.  The event happens and doesn’t go away.  How can time heal all wounds when your life is a daily permanent reminder of that loss and it is never ending.

Five years ago, I was in a great place, living a great life, not perfect but great.  I had entered a new relationship which was very special to me, I had a terrific job, where I was fairly compensated and I had freedom and unlimited choices.  I was happy and optimistic about my future.

It was a very cold February night as I went to sleep, thinking about the fun I was going to have at tomorrow’s Super Bowl Party and hoping that the numbers I picked in the office pool were going to net me the big win of the night.   I fell asleep quickly that Saturday night and when I awoke on Sunday morning, nothing was the same.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t get my legs to support my weight and I just lie there wondering what was going on.  After a while, my legs stopped shaking and I was able to make my way to the kitchen and brew a pot of coffee, thinking that would help me get on with my day.

Unfortunately, 2 cups of coffee later, I was in no better shape and had to go back to bed, where I spent the better part of the following week.  Everyone kept telling me I must have picked up a nasty virus and that I’d be back to normal in no time, but I knew something was very wrong and that a week in bed was not going to cure this ailment.

When you have a chronic condition, you are forever walking down a imaginary line that separates the past from the future. I think back to what I used to be able to do and think about the things I’ve had to give up and the time that I lost.  When I look forward, I can’t really picture what my future will bring, as I’m entering unchartered territory.

 

 

 

9-11

911MemorialMuseum

 

Today is the anniversary of one of the most horrible tragedies our nation has suffered and hopefully the worst that I will have to witness in my lifetime.  It’s almost unimaginable to think that 13 years have gone by since that cool, crisp September morning when NYC was under attack and I had to run for cover.  Thankfully, back then, I was healthy and could run and walk on my own. I often wonder what would have happened to me that morning if I had to rely on the kindness of others to protect me.

Many people were saved that morning because of the help of fire fighters, ambulance workers, police men and just plain old every day goodhearted citizens, but thousands of others weren’t so lucky and many of the ones that didn’t perish that morning were damaged emotionally  in ways that others can’t even imagine.

I won’t relive that morning, as I did it in my post on my blog a year ago, but I still felt it needed mention.  As a result of that day, many, many, many people’s lives were effected and unfortunately changed for the worse.  I know 2 people who worked in the towers and managed to escape and I know 1 person who was downtown that morning working in another building, and like me had to run for cover.  This last person is the one who emotionally has suffered the most and since that day, has never been the same.

Why is it that she has suffered the worst, when she hadn’t worked in the WTC.  We all saw horrific things that morning if we were by the Towers, but why is it that some of us have recovered emotionally and others haven’t.  To me this has to do with our mindset as we approached the day.

After witnessing the horrible events of that day, we all were in shock, and it took all of us time to process what had happened, to grieve for the people who lost there lives and the ones that lost their loved ones and then to heal.  But some people don’t heal, why?

Since 9-11, we’ve learned a lot about the brain and about suffering.  Trauma disrupts the balance of feeling, memory and decision-making in our brain and all these parts need time and care to come back into balance. Research has shown that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy and despite the fact that we will always remember what happened, emotional balance for many victims can return to normal within 2 years. This is a great cause for hope.  But what about the people whose brains don’t return to normal within 2 years, is there still hope for them?   We’ve also learned over the course of the last 13 years that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, affects not just the immediate victims of violence,  but also bystanders and witnesses.

In order to heal and recover, we must face our inner wounds and choose to fight them.  The alternative is to deny them, but then our suffering will continue and the healing process will be delayed.

My friend is working very hard to fight her inner wounds, but they are very deep and very severe, and unfortunately after 13 years, they are still there.  She has been crying since yesterday for the life she lost and for the person that never returned home from work the same.  I hope she is able to slay her demons (or at least tame them) this year and that the next time 9-11 rolls around on the calendar, it doesn’t have such a hold on her.

 

Anger

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Today it was pointed out to me by someone who’s opinion I trust and respect, that I very rarely get angry.   This wasn’t the first time this was pointed out to me and I wanted to explore this further.   I said anger is an emotion I am not comfortable with.  I hate the emotion when it is displayed in others and especially when it’s directed at me.  I try very hard to live and act a certain way, so as not to hurt or anger anyone.  My intent is always pure and I expect others to act the same way.

But is it healthy not to get angry?  Can’t I be pure and good and nice and still display anger.  Am I harming myself  by not getting angry when it is warranted?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I am chronically ill and have no idea when (or if) I will ever return to health?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I had to stop working and go on disability?  Shouldn’t I be angry that I had to sell my co-op that I owned for 20 years and move to a neighborhood near my mom and sister, so that I had a support system near by.  Shouldn’t I be angry that I have been removed from society for 5 years and not able to move on with my live?

When I read this, I’m thinking of course I should be angry, but I’m not.  Or is this anger so suppressed  and buried deep within me, that it is keeping me ill and I don’t even know it.  It would be a lie to say that my life and my health haven’t changed for the worse, but I think I am making the best of a difficult situation and I just don’t see how being angry that this happened to me is of any use.

I grieved for the loss of my pre-illness life, as I would a loved one.  In fact, I was going through this period of mourning my old life, when my dad past, so I grieved for them both at the same time.  Just as I deeply miss my dad, I deeply miss the life I had, but as time moves on and you become more removed from the past, the new normal is your reality.  While I remember and have flashbacks of my dad when I see a mailman on the street (as that was his occupation), or when I have to parallel park (as he taught me how to expertly do that), I also have flashbacks and pangs of sadness when I think back to my working and dating days.  But not anger, never anger or rage.

I’m starting to wonder if this is normal.  I never really thought about it before like this.  What good is constantly reliving the past in our minds, it only holds us back from moving forward.  I have so many physical constraints, I don’t want to think that my mind is causing me to prolong my illness and recovery.

I strongly believe that a very important component of me getting well and feeling better is adapting to my new reality.  Even though my life is difficult, very difficult at times, I still have an inner peace that sustains me and helps me go on each day.   There are days when I feel useless and not productive, but I never feel like my life is without value or worth.

My particular chronic illness is an extremely physically draining one, but I would be foolish to think that it isn’t emotionally draining too.  The more I adapt to my current surroundings and my new limits, the happier I feel I will be.  I am very thankful, that before I became ill, I was a very resilient, easy going individual and this resilience has served me well.  I also am thankful that I have a social support system that is available to me when I speak up and ask for help.

So as suggested to me, for the next 30 days, I am going to keep a diary of situations that occur and my response to them and see if anger is warranted in any of the situations when I review the day in my diary.  I am hoping I don’t have too many entries!