Wednesday, June 13, 2018

6 years

Six years.
SIX.
I started to touch on this in my last post, but we've definitely hit the period of "nobody really cares any more" as we should just be "over it" by now. I can list out on one hand the few people who wished K a happy birthday (by text, or sharing a memory on Facebook). And honestly, I can't say enough how incredible those wishes were. Are they necessary? Heck no. But that doesn't mean they meant nothing. They seriously meant the world to me.
Unfortunately, what hit me more was the realization that my emotional state has hit a new cross roads. And not for me, but for my presence in society. From therapy (again, my last post), my grief journey is expected to be never ending and my emotions will still fall within the categories of anger, denial, and sadness or depression at times. Most of the time I'm okay. But the past few months have been a fog of depression. One that I didn't even realize I was in until it started to lift last week after some hard talks and lots of crying with Ryan.
Because grief isn't accepted by society, many put up a steel wall to protect themselves. A boundary that keeps them together when they're falling apart on the inside. This works well, but really only when you don't have to deal with other people outside your immediate family. It's a protection method, a way to keep the tears and deep sadness from oozing out of every pour of our bodies. But what others see is a cold hearted bitch who is angry all the time. The feminist in me says this is because women are supposed to be soft and nice and approachable and not have opinions or feel frustrated when they're being trampled on or disrespected while men are allowed to be gruff and direct. Just in that description, there's a huge difference between the same actions and how they're perceived. For men, simply direct, maybe rough, but getting the point across, so acceptable. For women, bitchy. Is this an excuse for how I'm feeling toward the world right now? Maybe, but it's literally how I'm feeling. Just in the groups of people I see day to day, the men are allowed their off days with cautions of "ooh, don't approach him today, he's really angry" and making a joke of it. Why can't women have an off day and then just move forward once it passes? I digress.
The past few months. I honestly could not tell you what life has been like except that if a picture were to be drawn to represent it, it would literally just be a dark grey cloud. And stress. Lots of stress from work. I'm still blown away by someone asking me how I'm doing, me opening up a bit, and the person just saying, "okay!" and walking away. Like, could you have talked to me for a few minutes? Is it that horrible to reach out to people who maybe aren't doing so hot? So many people withdraw when someone's having a bad day, month, whatever. That's the opposite of what they should be doing. Sadly, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are perfect examples of this. Appeared fine, but then missed a meal or two (in Anthony Bourdain's case) and nobody checked on him soon enough. It's tough to portray to the world on a daily basis that life is dandy 100% of the time. Exhausting, really.
And that's the crossroads I'm at now. Six years out, and the grief still hits me hard at times. The hardest time is the spring time leading up the Korbin's birthday. Couple that with some major stressors at work, and you've got a not so happy camper with that steel facade built real high. I asked Ryan after all of our hard chats last week, how much do you keep pretending just to appease others? It feels like denying so much that has happened, that's existed. Right now I'm feeling really guilty that we didn't have a memorial or a funeral for Korbin. I mentioned hearing of a mutual acquaintance's loss of one of their children (still birth, possibly?) to a family member, and this person expressed sorrow at the tough time the family has had, but they're doing okay thanks to lots of support from their own family. When I mentioned that I get how hard it can be, they looked at me kinda funny, like, how would you know? And then said, "oh, yeah. Yeah, that's right." But in more of a tone of really, how could you know? He was born, but so many don't recognize that. Some friends who had a child very early (a micro preemie) were shocked to hear K actually has a birth certificate. He was born alive and expected to survive. Till he didn't.
Maybe a funeral would have allowed him to be acknowledged as someone who had a presence in this world.
The only people that it truly matters to get it are Ryan, P, and me. His parents, his brother. Nobody else needs to get it. But man, it cuts deep when people don't even recognize it. The months of March, April, and May were a fog. Now that the fog has lifted, I'm seeing how much I struggled through, remembering all too often feeling irked by others. A great quote, that I'm going to paraphrase, tuned me in to recognizing how much I was struggling: if one person is bothering you, it's them. But if everyone is bothering you, the problem is you. Attitude adjustment, accepting demotions, sunshine, whatever it takes. Somehow, I've got to pick myself up by the boot straps and hold my head high and pretend like life is a-okay. Never denying anything.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Maps

My therapist went over the map of grief with me just a few sessions in to our time together last year, it hangs on a board near the kitchen where I can pass by and see it every single day. Basically, you have acceptance in the middle, and it is surrounded by feelings such as depression/sadness, envy/jealousy, anger, longing, etc. As life keeps going, I am moving throughout this map, sometimes sitting between two feelings like envy and anger, and then shooting over to longing, bouncing over to sadness. With each change or shift I may or may not pass through acceptance. This is life daily, monthly, yearly.
The thing that others just don't get, is that in a grief journey, one doesn't end up in acceptance. It's not an end to the journey, but simply a phase that is felt from time to time. As it's not an end, or even a goal necessarily, the feelings of sadness, longing, and even anger are feelings that I will feel off and on for the rest of my life. I may feel them for a minute or for months at a time. It may appear unexplainable to others, but for me, it is completely justifiable, and it is who I am now. Since June 2012. And it's not going away.
In support group (which I haven't attended in forever and maybe need to go to a couple times in the coming months), we all understand each others grief and actions from our grief, even years out from losses. I may be handling everything just fine, but then the slightest trigger will set off a cascade of emotions that I struggle to keep in check. Others in group have complained how family members, friends, even close coworkers who seemed to understand in the early years, begin to wonder when they'll finally be over their loss and just move on. We've all gasped at how disrespectful and uncaring these people have been to our fellow DBC members (a group I wish no one had to join), and I'm sure many, like me, in early years after loss have felt relieved that those immediately surrounding us have not treated us this way. That we've still been allowed our new normal.
Sadly, it seems even my allowed normal has reached it's perceived end point in others eyes. Thankfully, not everyone I hold close to me seems to feel this way about me, but unfortunately, some of the people I see and interact with nearly every day are increasingly making it more and more obvious that they think I'm done grieving, and need to just move on. And I honestly don't know where to go from here. Until now, they've been so supportive, so accepting of who I have become. And yet suddenly, the me I have become is no longer acceptable and harsh changes need to happen in their eyes. They just don't get it. Hopefully they never will.
Everyone's grief journey is different. Some steal away all emotion and become hard as a rock. Some can't hide every emotion they feel. Navigating society and what's accepted as normal is difficult regardless of how one walks through their own grief journey. Especially as society doesn't accept grief as okay.
Sometimes moving forward is difficult. And sometimes it means accepting big and sudden changes.
Moving forward currently is proving to be extremely difficult. But I just have to take life one day at a time. One foot in front of the other.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Support

As we near the six year mark of Korbin's passing, my emotional state has definitely taken a nose dive. I've mentioned this before, but spring time is the hardest. Despite the outside being so full of lush, green life, my mind mostly just wanders to the upcoming date that is Korbin's anniversary of his passing. Thankfully this spring has been lighter than last year's, which was so exhaustingly dark and rainy. There's been more light to counteract the darkness that weighs over me. And I think this helped me be a light to another couple's darkness from their recent loss.
Before seeing a patient or a couple for their transfer (putting embryos back in to the uterus), we do a quick look through their chart to be familiar with their history. Have they had a transfer before? Was it successful? Is this their first? Their fifth? In the smallest amount of details, we can gage much of their mental and emotional state and how much time we'll be spending with each particular patient. In the past, if we knew a patient had had a similar loss to my loss of Korbin, I had avoided the transfer. The emotional connection has been much to strong for me to even be able to function. The first time we came across one that I had originally volunteered for, I had to excuse myself to recover. And I didn't even do the transfer. Just reading the patient's story breaks my heart. And I'll never forget that couple.
Today, I was it for doing transfers. There were no other options as my coworker who could also do them was doing the difficult ICSI case for the afternoon. I didn't think much of doing the transfers at this point, and saw that the first patient's had had a positive pregnancy test, and one long enough ago to have had a child. Going back further, the first note that jumped out to me is one of expressing condolences for their loss. My heart stopped. Shit. I had to get it together and go talk to these patients, even though I was about to break down myself. Somehow I managed that and walked in and introduced myself. Each couple responds differently. There are those that have had negative after negative after negative and still sit their smiling with excitement about this transfer and possibility. Then there are those who don't even want to talk to you they are so angry with their lot in life (understandably so). This couple was bubbly, but emotional as well. I acknowledged that this is a bit emotional. The husband said, "well, a lot emotional." And I couldn't stop myself but found myself saying that yes, of course it is, and I can understand as I lost my first son. And that I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to make light of their emotional state. The very next question from the husband, as they both broke down, "does it get any easier?" And suddenly I was the one 5+ years out helping these parents in their fresh, new anguish. The self blame, the need for counseling and therapy, support groups, time, we talked about all of it. And in such a short time. My heart goes out to them, and I even said a prayer as I loaded the catheter, "please God, let this be positive for them."
This new experience in my grief journey has definitely left me a bit drained, but also healed in a way. It hurts, god damn it hurts so bad still. But I'm okay. And I can tell someone who feels it so raw and fresh that it will be okay, even when it still hurts so bad. That there can be hope. We talked about P a little bit, and how being part of this shitty group changes the type of parent you are and how you parent. But that's okay too. And it doesn't mean you were a bad parent, but again, that self blame...that's what therapy's for, right?
For me, this was definitely a huge step forward in my emotional capabilities at work. I never thought I'd see the day where I could do a transfer with another loss parent and step away feeling okay, an emotional mess, but okay. And I have done one just once before, knowingly, that sapped me of every ounce of energy I had that day. I was done. But not this time. Time really does heal. So here's hoping this continues, that there's more emotional growth in this new step in my grief journey.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Distraction

It started with Bejeweled. The need for a constant distraction. I'd play the game over and over and over again to keep my mind off of my ever present anguish after losing Korbin. As my high score plateaued, this eventually morphed in to checking my emails constantly. Work, gmail, hotmail. They didn't update fast enough. Then Facebook became the best distraction from the constant pain.
Despite the near constant updating found in Facebook, I would actually go through it constantly enough that at times, it wouldn't update. There wouldn't be a single change when I'd hit refresh as I'd seen everything in my newsfeed already. Maybe this is why I started friending people I barely know, instead of keeping it to just close friends and family. I just need something to distract me. TV is not usually enough, and movies don't generally distract enough either. Facebook for a time was just enough, but only for so long.
What's resulted, however, is the bad habit that, when I'm feeling overly emotional or anxious, I just go to Facebook and scroll, and scroll, and scroll. It's become a habit that needs to be broken, and as much as Ryan would tease me about my Facebook addiction, I never really saw it as that until a friend posted on Facebook recently, "What am I looking for?" This is honestly one of the best questions I've seen as of late, and it's one I am asking myself a lot of the time when I find myself turning to Facebook. Because, of course, I still use it as a distraction. In reality, it's just a major time suck that keeps me from being productive.
These days I am in a better place both mentally and emotionally, and yet the habit persists. Even when an article pops up that sounds interesting, I simply open it and save it for later. And yet, I miss reading. Like whole articles and books. So why don't I just read? Or even sew, or sketch, or paint? These are all things I generally feel I don't have time for, and yet, there's always time for scrolling through Facebook. There's always time to be distracted, even from the anxiety that has now developed. It's funny, too, because anxiety gives me nervous energy that makes me need to DO something, and there are most definitely better avenues for using this energy than scrolling through Facebook.
As my grief journey morphs and I find myself in better places, better moods even, Facebook is becoming something that I don't need any more. It's just a matter of breaking the bad habit and moving forward with better ways to distract myself. More productive ways that are fulfilling more so than distracting. Attempting to fill the void at least feels better than just trying to distract myself from focusing on it. It will never go away, so I guess there's a lot of filling to do over the course of the rest of my life, however long that may be. And there are so many productive ways to fill it that benefit others first and not myself.
I can't imagine a better way to distract myself. My family, my friends, and helping strangers are the best distractions to the ever present pain that is the loss of Korbin, so my time is best spent with them and helping others.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Paranoia

My anxiety often leads me down dark paths of paranoia, and this is one thing that brought me to therapy early last year. Now that I have tools to walk myself through these moments, they are just that, a passing moment. Before, they would become all consuming for days or weeks at a time. Did going to therapy stop these dark thoughts completely? No, and that's not the point. What's needed is ways to deal with the thoughts as they come so I can de-escalate myself and remain calm and functional.
For instance, today my mother-in-law watched P while I was at work. About half-way through the day I thought I'd check in on them. Before I could call or text, I noticed an alert on my apple watch saying that the front door had been locked recently. My next thought was wondering if I'd really locked it or not before leaving for work, after she had arrived in the early morning. My very next thought? A serial killer had let himself in, killed them both, as well as the dogs, and if I were able to check a video feed like P's baby monitor, I'd see P's lifeless and bloodied body in his bedroom. Yeah, that escalated quickly. The thoughts are quickly horrific, not likely, and they hit me like a sucker punch to my gut, taking the air out of my lungs. While I know these thoughts stem from losing Korbin and my deep-rooted fear of losing P too soon as well, I can't make them stop. What also fueled my awful thought pathway was seeing via our alarm system app how many times the front and back doors, as well as the garage door, had been opened and closed, locked and unlocked. It just didn't look right and I couldn't reason as to why they would have done that.
Before therapy, this scenario would have left me shaking with anxiety and worry, especially as I didn't hear from my mother-in-law immediately after calling and leaving a voicemail checking in. I'd have been unable to focus easily at work, and would become manic in a random, thoughtless project that "needed" to get done. In other words, I would just try my best to distract myself from my mounting worry, which only made it grow and grow.
Now, as difficult as it seems, and truly is, I actually take myself through the steps of what I'd do if my awful thoughts were reality. If I checked the baby monitor and saw P seemingly dead, what would I do? Leave work immediately with a text/voicemail to my boss. Call 911 as I headed to my car. Pray there was still life somewhere in that little body, in my mother-in-law's as well. Alert my neighbors. Call Ryan. Taking myself through an if-then type process quickly calms me, which helps me to better pass the time more productively as I can then focus on my work until I hear back that everything's great, they were just outside playing in the gorgeous weather we had today and her phone was inside.
My mind makes mountains out of mole hills daily. And though I can't stop it completely, I at least know how to handle it. Before therapy I was quickly going off the deep end of even possibly becoming psychotic from my worries and fears and anxieties. I needed help to control the random impulse thoughts that, really, every person has. Anxiety is part of nature, and it drives many species in their survival. But anxiety can also sometimes take complete control of you. It's why I crave the instant feed-back from a text reply or call back. I need to know and I need to know now. Unrealistic, of course, as life happens and people don't (and shouldn't) always have their phones on them. But, my reality has my phone glued to my hip for constant contact, especially with Ryan and anyone taking care of P in our absence.
I just need to know that everything is okay, all the time, and that P is still here with us.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Blessed

We are, what I'm sure many would consider, beyond blessed. Not only do we have a roof over our heads, but we have soooo much space under that roof. Not only do we have a full fridge, but at times we don't eat food fast enough and have to throw some in the compost. Or we've eaten so much we feel stuffed. Not only can we afford to pay our bills each month, but we put money in to savings and then have extra to spend on silly things. But, we didn't always have this. We have worked so hard, and continue to do so, to afford the basics and the extras. I want to say that I think we deserve the things we have because we worked so hard to get to this place in life, but I still feel guilty at times that we can have so much when others still have so little, if anything at all.
What I never want to do is brag or sound like we're bragging about the extra things we get to have these days. I'd so much rather we just be grateful for what we get to have, and that others can see and feel how grateful we are. And I do my best to be humble, to not be flashy or showy. Which is hard when some of the things we enjoy are larger, typically flashy. Like cars. Cars aren't cheap, and we love them. The aesthetics, the drive, etc. We'll probably always be buying the next best car. But it's also one of our hobbies.
I think what I've really struggled with as of late is how our economic status now affords us even more, and the "even more" tends to be free. For instance, we recently had the opportunity to test out a new system for a company, and to test it we were given a gift card every week to buy things. This lasted for months. Could we afford to buy things like packs of batteries or a new pan each week? Sure. We didn't need the gift cards, but it sure was awesome to get so much stuff (and stuff we actually wanted, key word, wanted...not needed) for free. But why isn't an opportunity like this available to disadvantaged people? Someone who can't afford to buy a couple of light bulbs when some go out in their apartment? Someone who would buy diapers, or formula instead of a few random baking utensils that haven't been touched in months. Instead, those who can do more than just afford the extra fun things are most likely to receive the opportunity to have things that aren't necessary for free. We accept them happily. But at times it definitely feels greedy. And I worry that we just perpetuate a system that only seeks to further separate the haves from the have nots.
But it's not so easy to just flip the system and have these opportunities available to those who have less. How do we choose who gets these opportunities? Sooo many people could benefit, and yet it's usually just a very small subset of people testing out the product.
It's ponderings like this that drive me to do more for those around me in my community and sometimes even worldwide. To give, and always think of those less fortunate than us. To wonder how I, my family, or even my friends, can do more. One small thing we are doing is collecting items for foster children in the area via P's birthday. This kid has so much, and he doesn't need anything more at this point. So this is something we can do for other kids his age who are in need. Because there is always more that can be done.
And because we got a lotta love to give.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Killjoy

Unless I'm with my fellow DBC friends, the topic of having kids and being pregnant often leads to awkward questions as people try to include to me, but then hesitate. Why do they hesitate? It's painfully obvious that they don't really want to know more about my not-so-joyful birth experiences. Which is hard as I want to still be included when chatting about c-sections versus labor, and breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. But, our story is so different from the vast majority of the people we know. And it tends to lead to being excluded for being a killjoy in the conversation.
Recently, some girlfriends and I got together to celebrate a friend moving away soon, excited to see her once more before she moves halfway across the country and we see her less often. She has a tiny baby, and so much of the conversation involved new parenting ideas, birth, and experiences. At one point, one was asking about each of our birth experiences, c-section versus natural (and how natural), and she hesitated for a moment before asking me. And when she asked, it was only if I'd had a c-section. Singular. I'm making some assumptions, but possibly hoping to not bring up our first birth story. I answered boldly that I'd had two c-sections. And, as often happens, silence ensued.
Later in the evening, discussion changed to how often or quickly each of us were having our kids. How close together did we want to have them, why that could be advantageous, and how it all was happening in reality for each of us. I said that if we could have more kids, we had wanted to have them close together, boom boom boom. And kind of timidly added that we did want more. Again, brief silence, some awkward moments before another question to redirect was asked and conversation flowed elsewhere.
I'm not sure what I want exactly, as I even have trouble at times dealing with talking about these life decisions. But what makes it so hard for us is that they weren't a decision we got to make it. It was made for us and we're left wondering why all the time. But ignoring and changing the topic, as often happens, most definitely doesn't help matters. It's disheartening, and leads me to withdraw over the course of the conversation in order to not have to subject everyone around me to the other side of raising a family. The side that isn't perfect and involves heartache and loss. But, I shouldn't have to hide my feelings, especially amongst close friends.
It makes me appreciate my friends who have opened themselves so completely to my grief journey. Those that don't shy away from talking about both my boys, both of my birth experiences, and my pain that is coupled with my joy. It means the world to me to be able to have those few moments of true expression instead of hiding what's in my heart. And I find myself gravitating towards those friends more often as experiences like the ones above continue to happen with other groups of friends.
It's okay to ask me if this aspect of child-rearing totally sucks. The part that took away one child and left us with, yes, just one. Just one child that you can see, not the two that are forever in my heart. It doesn't have to derail conversation completely, and talk of loss doesn't have to last for the rest of the evening. That's what therapy is for (thankfully). But, please just allow me my few minutes of grief, to share it with those I love in exchange for support and empathy.
I hope that I am able to provide for others in this way, too, who are dealing with grief. That I can practice what I preach and show availability in my heart to allow others to grieve as they need to even when I find it difficult to hear it. Because it is hard to not focus on only joy. It's a constant challenge, to continually open yourself up to others' pain. But it's possible, and it's so needed by those grieving.
A constant goal to be better for those around me.
Because I got a lotta love to give.