My beautiful Mom

mom2

 

Tonight my friend Kathie, tweeted: “Tell your family & friends you love them. Pick up the phone & call them. Life can change in a heart beat.”

It’s here. The day I’ve anticipated and dreaded.  March 18, 2014,  the 1st anniversary of my mom’s death.  You can tell yourself over & over your parent is going to die, that’s completely different than realizing they are actively dying.  I always knew the day would come but didn’t accept it, even though I’d been told she was dying. At the time reality and reason did not co-exist.

Ever since March 9th I’ve been remembering what occurred each day last year, she started getting sick around the 4th & my kids & I (mostly my son) stayed at her apt. and took care of her. March 9 we took her to the ER cuz her breathing was so labored & shallow. On March 11 she was sent to a rehab hospital and on the 15th she was sent home to die.

I remember when my mom was well, sometimes I’d worry about her getting hurt or even dying. It felt as though if she were to die, there would be no air to breathe, my world would cease to exist. Here it is, 1 year later and yes, my world did cease to exist, yet somehow I am still breathing.

Until late December I couldn’t “see” my mom in my mind, I’d have to look at a picture to remember her face. One night I had a dream about her, we were walking into her apt.- we must’ve gone to a hair appt. She was wearing a familiar blouse & smiling (as always); it was 1 of those dreams you don’t want to wake up from. When I did wake up I tried going back to my dream but couldn’t, ever since that time I’ve been able to remember my mom. It’s best explained to say my memories went from 0 to 100 very fast, it was overwhelming yet I didn’t want it to stop.

Sometimes I can feel my mom with me, it’s not something I actively sought out, it just happened. It happens when I’m alone, out of nowhere I’ll see an image of something we did together, it’s more than just that though- hard to explain. Other times it is a knowing presence, I can feel her with me. One time I went to bed angry at Jim, as I lay there I suddenly had an image of my mom making a funny face (a sarcastic smile) she did when I’d tell her she looked sad, or didn’t look happy. I fought it, but eventually I couldn’t help but smile & burst out laughing. I know without a doubt that was my mom cuz she knows my temper & used to hate it when I’d get so angry… all it took for her to change my mood was a silly smile.

I’ve heard people say (not to me) when you’re older your parent’s death shouldn’t affect you as much as when you’re younger – HOGWASH! Throw that & any other judgments or expectations in the trash. Everybody’s experience is unique. Feelings don’t really make sense: there are days I want to cry but I feel numb, some days I don’t think about my mom- others I’m consumed with her- sometimes I start crying and can’t stop- absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. There is no right or wrong when it comes to grieving.

I spent a lot of time with my mom, helped her when she’d let me, laughed & cried with her. We people-watched, she’d wear sunglasses & feel invisible, sometimes it was so obvious she was staring & I’d be embarrassed, but she’d always make me laugh afterward. Our roles reversed: I’d be calling her to make sure she was home safe & hadn’t been drinking too much. She lived a full life to the very end!

My regrets have to do with my mom’s final days. I wish we’d had time alone, just the two of us. Time to hold her hand, tell her how much I loved her, thank her for everything & for being my best friend. A chance to say good-bye. I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, maybe my mom and I weren’t meant to say good-bye.

Time… nothing replaces the time you can spend with someone, even if it is sitting by their side, holding their hand and not saying one word.

ps… Lisa S. if you read this please let me know, I’ve lost your email.

 

Been forever

It feels like winter is here, that is winter So. Cal style- it’s 60 degrees outside. I wasn’t able to fall asleep last night until about 4am, lots of things on my mind.  Since the last time I wrote here so much has changed – drastically, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever share any of it & I strongly doubt I’ll ever share all of it- I still haven’t shared all of it with another person.

I’m not looking forward to the holidays for a number of reasons, 1 of them being if I’m invited to functions with my family I’m not going & for once I can say it’s because I just don’t want to go. Yes, I know that may seem insensitive but I don’t. I realized last night part of why I’ve been angry at my siblings & haven’t seen them is they’re going to remind me of my mom. Emotionally, even just thinking about it feels like a gut punch. When I’m home here, just Jim & I, it’s not abnormal for my mom not to be here. But seeing my siblings? I’d ALWAYS have my mom with me when I saw them. Too much pain.

I’ve done well as far as dealing with my emotions regarding my mom’s death…numbness mostly. I was VERY depressed in May & was in the hospital for 2 weeks, then attended an outpatient program for 10 – and here I are! Although I’ve been feeling numb, at times out of nowhere I break down crying; I know that’s normal. Right now it feels as if a dam’s about to burst & I’m not sure I want that to happen. I’ve been afraid of being so sad that I fall into a deep depression again; I can’t afford that.

This Friday will be 20 years since my Dad died. There’s no comparison between my parents, their deaths- so much was different. I was 35 when my Dad died, my kids were 10 & 12, I was a single mom & I still had my mom- my dad was 72. My Dad & I had a cantankerous (that may not be the right word, but I like it) relationship at times, we were both opinionated & hard-headed, but we both respected that about each other. We’d get in debates & be fine, even though it was heated, my mom would be so nervous she’d be slamming cupboards, clearly she should have spoken up! LOL ;)

With my mom, I was 54, kids 30 & 32, my mom & I were best friends. She needed me and I don’t think she realized it, but I needed her, too.

Welcome to my ramblings

It’s at time likes this when I can’t get my mom off my mind.  I was sitting outside & started worrying if she was okay in her apt., then it hit me that she died.  In an odd way, I felt relief for her and for me, I don’t have to picture her (in my mind) fallen on her bathroom floor…suffering, or worry about the most unrealistic things happening to her.  Even though she’s gone, I know she’s safe.  That seems like kind of a backwards way of thinking, doesn’t it?

In many ways I’m fortunate.  Although I am able to think of things I regret regarding my mom, they are very few, and quite honestly, I really have to think hard to come up with them. My mom lived 85 wonderful years, she died 6 days after her birthday. She’d told me a few days before that, that this would be her last birthday. I told her not to say that, even though I knew it was most likely true, Although the days before her death weren’t how I envisioned them, she was well cared for and surrounded by family that loved her.

My daughter’s co-worker lost her mom recently and said something to the affect that her mom’s death was nothing like she expected; it wasn’t what we see in the movies, or on t.v.   And to add to the issue is that in our society, death is rarely talked about… it’s a taboo subject. Every single death, or act of dying is different. I’ve learned that worrying about somebody dying, or trying to think how you’ll feel after their gone, is such a waste of time, and I think it’s more common than we like to admit.  We want to be in control, especially of our loved ones, but at that time, in that process, we’re not.  We can just love them and take care of their needs; Hospice is such a godsend

In other societies the passing onto the afterlife is considered sacred; I consider it sacred, but at the same time that has no effect on how painful the loss of my mother is. I’m pretty sure my beliefs about the afterlife are nontraditional and I struggled for years to find my “truth”.  It’s not the truth most have.  I believe my mom is in a beautiful place filled with light, love and all her loved ones.  I don’t believe in a mean, angry or vengeful “god”, I don’t even believe in 1 particular entity.  Quite honestly, I don’t find that part relevant. I simply believe that when we pass to the afterlife, we’re surrounded by love-no matter who we are, or were. That’s enough for me.

I have this peace of mind and yet I ache for her.  I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve woken up and it’s like that movie, Groundhog Day, except it’s awful. In my sleep I forgot my mom died, so when I wake up, I think she’s alive, and then I remember and I just cry. One time last week it happened 3 times in one morning. It is happening less and I think I’m less shocked when I remember, perhaps I should be happy in that moment that I think she’s still alive.

I know I’m jumping all over the place, that’s what my mind does at night. This may not make sense to anyone but me, but I think this (me thinking of my mom so much) is in a way, hanging on to her. When this part passes or I move on from it, it will be 1 less part of my mom that I have here with me.

I’m an honest person, so when I say “I’m going to be perfectly honest…” don’t think it means I’m not at other times, k? That said, I’m going to be perfectly honest here: I will completely understand if anybody stops reading my blog. Right now I know I’m writing for me. I do have a journal that I write to my mom in, but this is part of my therapy. I’m sure some people must think I think of my mom too much, and maybe I do. What I’m trying to say is I realize this probably interests/benefits nobody but me.

Until she died I hadn’t realized how close we were, how much time we spent together. I was at her beckon call for the past 2 years and I didn’t dislike it.  Yes, at times I was lazy & didn’t want to go out, but she helped me in that way cuz I’d take her for her hair appt., mani/pedi, to the market, clothes shopping, visiting relatives. She gave me a purpose, she really did.

This Day Sucks

I have no idea whats going on, I feel like my life’s backwards. I need to laugh, like “laugh your ass off” kinda laugh (but no, I don’t drink alcohol)…so there’s that. Don’t think I’ve said more than 10 words on Twitter since my mom got sick. Right now, it’s really hard for me to refer to her – I keep expecting her to come back, but she’s gone. Forever.

There’s nothing like a mom, I can tell you that. I have nobody to call and talk to who would “get me“, my mom would at the very tone of my voice. This weekend I went to Encinitas, it’s a wonderful quaint little city in San Diego- kinda hippiesh- I love it. I went all by myself, I’ve never done that in all my 54 years. I usually don’t like leaving my house, but now I find myself wanting to take off & just go… where? I don’t know. I have a cousin at the beach in O.C. (but the people there are much different than S.D. people-not my cousin though)  Then I have my other cousin in Santa Barbara, I’d love to go there. I could just watch the waves all day long ~ they’re just so beautiful.

My kids have taken it upon themselves to parent me… I’m not liking it 1 bit. I know it’s out of love, but c’mon, telling me to get out of bed when I’m taking a nap, cuz I got 3-4 hours sleep?? But their advice! Oy Vey! Don’t get me wrong, it’s good advice, they’re well-grounded kids (adults), but both my parents are gone now – they’re dead. I need to process this as do my kids.

I know there are grieving support groups, but I don’t want to go to one.  I want only 1 thing and I know I can’t have that – so that leaves nothing. Yes, that’s childish, but it’s also the truth.

When Will I See You Again?

I can’t write a whole lot now, for 1 thing: I’m exhausted. Buy in case there is anybody that doesn’t know yet, my mom, my world…died on March 18, 2013. It was 6 days after her 85th birthday. Today wasn’t such an easy one, I spent much of it in tears. I miss her more than I ever thought it was possible to miss another human, not to mention my best friend and my mom.

I still remember 1 day when I drove us to Denny’s Restaurant and I was fixing her hair, or her blouse (I always did both), I think I kissed her & held her hand and she said, “Jane! People are going to think we’re lesbians!!” Being that my mom has a gay daughter & granddaughter she knew exactly what she was saying. I laughed so hard I almost peed, she couldn’t figure out what I found so funny, even when I said, “Well, hopefully they’ll notice there’s a few years difference between us.” (30 to be exact)

I love my mom. I miss her. The pain, when I feel it, is unbearable. I want to get in the car & just drive forever…with no destination- just to find my mom. I want to hold her hand again. I want to count the age spots on her hands. Admire how beautiful she was. How easily she laughed. How polite she was.

Funny, Spanish was her 1st language, assimilation was important to her & her family. Yet in her last hours it was all she could understand…which made it difficult for us children to speak to her as we spoke none. (It was the mystery language she kept from us, saved exclusively for her Spanish-speaking friends to gossip with.) She kept staring at me, as though she had cataracts, but she had them removed. I’d give anything to know what she wanted to say, but it was probably in Spanish & her communication skills were at their weakest…English or Spanish.

When she passed, I was happy for her, no suffering. I was sad for me, and yes, I know that is extremely selfish, but it’s true. Had anyone told me the immense pain I’d feel in my inner most being, I wouldn’t have believed them. Honestly, I don’t know how I’ve coped this long. My heart is broken.

As I said, I’m happy for her, shes with her mom, her husband, her siblings, her cousins, aunts, uncles, her niece-my cousin, Lola. And while I’m happy for her, my heart is still broken into two- one part is with her, and one part is here with me. I’ll be whole when we’re together again.

i should have known

tired. somewhat depressed. never been a people person. got a call into my therapist & waiting for the callback. didnt say i “needed” to talk. so i keep everything in my head. paranoia. nobody to talk to. nobody. only safe one would be my snoring pig. literally. tears fall and i dont know why. i shouldnt be sad. dont trust people. i know better. “friends” are fake. passive aggressive friends are the fakest. some love knowing anothers weakness. thats sick. sicker than me. sickness of the ego. mine is a sickness of the heart.

trying. always trying. to fit in. but i never have. i never will. 99% of the time i dont care if i do or not. not “one of the crowd” just not. i should have known to keep things to myself. trust nobody but myself – my mantra. how it is. always been. safest way.

12/23/12

First of all, I want to thank all my friends that were supportive, whether in comments here or on Twitter, it’s amazing how many people are struggling thru the same feelings. Just knowing you aren’t alone, in itself, is a big relief.

My mom called last nite & mentioned 2 of my cousins called her cuz they left me messages, but haven’t heard back. They want to get together Dec. 26 & I wasn’t sure if I could handle it as the anxiety hits without warning. Then I started thinking about my cousins & my mom, and the tears started falling. I told her about my anxiety & how late at night I worry about losing her or other loved ones. My mom has lived thru what I’m afraid to, yet she’s not only survived, she’s grown stronger. And she told me I’m tough, she’s right, I am… I just don’t want to have to be tough.

As I’ve shared before. I consider Nov./Dec. to be “the dying season.” Most of our family that has died, has died in these 2 months. Between my mom, myself, my cousin Lucy & other cousin, Lisa, I’ve suffered the least. Lisa is the daughter of my cousin, Lola, who was Lucy’s sister-both my cousins, my mom’s sister’s daughters. I know I’ve written many times about Lola, although there were 15 years between us, she was my closest cousin-we were 2 peas in a pod in the way we thought. Our sisters, Lucy & my sis think alike, but much differently than Lola & I.

Lola died on Dec. 27, 2007. Her mom, my mom’s sister, died on Dec. 3, 2005. Both of my uncles- my mom’s brothers, also died in December- one on the 24th. My Grandma died on Jan. 1, 1954 (4 years before I was born) of brain cancer. How my mom manages during the holidays is baffling, she doesn’t bring up all the deaths, none of us really do…but she’s basically lost her mom & all siblings during the holidays. My dad died on Nov. 8, 1993, and Lucy’s husband died on Nov. 9, 2010. Recently, my sister-in-law’s sister died on Nov. 21 of leukemia, she was my age- 54.

Lucy only has 1 brother left (not counting her own children, etc.) and Lisa lost her mom & Grandma within a few years of each other. I helped take care of my Auntie when she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, until the day she passed away. With Lola, I didn’t, and that is something I will always regret. Granted, my mom had contracted MRSA & I was busy taking care of her, but not being there for Lola is something that weighs so heavy on my heart. Part of me thinks that’s how she wanted it~ she’d always watched out for me…we shared similar life experiences, being the youngest in our families, we even shared the same Godfather. What I think about how she felt is irrelevant; she was surrounded by loved ones & very well cared for until she passed.

I’m so hung up about her though. I never told her good-bye, even though I’ve talked to her a multitude of times, since her passing- there was no closure. I let her down, I let Lisa & Lucy down – I let myself down. So many times I could have sat by her side & just talked, listened, or said nothing at all…just held her hand, but I didn’t. And I miss her so dearly, so tremendously – she fought cancer with all her might, she didn’t want to go, and I didn’t want her to go. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I was in denial of her dying, while the rest were dealing with her on a daily basis, I was busy in denial because she’d told me she would be fine & I hung on to those words.

We’re lucky to find friends that we feel we’ve known all our life. Lola? I actually knew her all of my life & we “got” each other. She was that 1 of a kind person except I was fortunate enough that she was also a relative & she knew absolutely everything about me, and still loved me. And it’s on that note, I’ve decided to call both of my cousins & let them know I’d love to get together with them on the 26th. Yes, it may be emotional for me, but if they can do it when they’ve lost SO many, I certainly can. This is a time of year when family, especially this part of my family, should be seeing each other & sharing our love for each other.

I may have anxiety; I may not. But one thing I know that I certainly don’t want to have is regrets like those regarding Lola. And the very least I can do is spend time with her sister & her daughter; I know she’d be smiling down on us.

12/22/12

I feel like I’m crawling out of my fucking skin!! I’ve been having anxiety every single day for probably a week now. I know a lot get stressed around the holidays; I don’t really have anything to be stressed about. I’ve cut back on gifts & am trying to get my family to just give funny cards ~ it’s lots of fun to sit around, open your funny card & share them; everyone is cracking up laughing & having a great time. It takes away all the pressure of buying gifts, alas, my kids are still getting gifts, I got my kids gifts…but still, that’s not adding any pressure.

Things at home are good, very good. I’ve taken an anxiety pill & am still chewing at the skin on my fingers, my ears are ringing, I can’t concentrate- if I were depressed I’d say it’s agitated depression, but I don’t think I’m depressed. Late at night I’m reading and then, out of nowhere I start worrying. Meditating is out of the question. (although the other night I did sing to Trixi when she was snoring really loud & it calmed her down)Knowing that “some” day someone close to me is going to die. And trust me, I get that it’s part of life & all that, I just can’t imagine anything happening to my mom, or Dick, or either of my kids…even Trixi. The feeling is so overwhelming  at night that I just lay there, crying. I want to go hide somewhere, some place where I don’t even have to consider the realities of life. It’s not something I knowingly I plan on thinking about – it just happens. It makes me want to crawl into a ball, sit in a secluded corner and stay there forever. As unrealistic as that sounds, it’s my wish, at least until this awful sense of dread leaves.

Where this dread came from & why it’s here, why the anxiety keeps returning ~ I don’t know. I take naps when I get too anxious, my only energy is nervous energy. While I try not to show my feelings, I know I’m someone I wouldn’t want to hang around-if I were reading this blog. Still, I’ve got to get this out to hopefully feel better. Change something. Figure something out. Accept the impermanence in life, that I know…I get, but why am I having such a problem with this? Even if I figure this out, I don’t know for sure it’s the root of my anxiety & these horrible feelings that seem to have control of my life.

I could say I’m looking at my glass as 1/2 empty, which would be true. I’m not accepting life on life’s terms- kind of true-I’m fighting it. Pray. Higher Power. Hot baths. Hot tea. I’m not counting my blessings-possibly-things could be much worse. However, ALL of that put on the table, it doesn’t “fix” my problem- this fucking anxiety & sense of dread. Went to bed crying, woke up in a panic. Why?

Learning from past mistakes

I’ve been known to fly off the handle when someone pisses me off. As a result, I’ve started removing myself from the situation, or in the case with my siblings-not putting myself there in the 1st place.

Nov/Dec are tough months for me – lots of family deaths…it’s kind of the “dying season” in my eyes. Add to that I haven’t been to my therapist in 2 mos. and I know I may take things too personally. So, when that happens, I’ve been taking my computer & kindle & going in my room.

Tonight my son & I had some words…not much really, but I felt he was disrespectful. So I was going in my room & he came & talked to me. He said it depresses him when I do that (I do it about 3 times a week), but I explained for right now, it’s my coping mechanism. Last week when I’d gotten angry he told me I say harmful things & am dangerous when I’m like that- it really hurt me. I’ve never considered myself “dangerous”, but in the context of “words” he was right. I’ve said horribly cruel things to the people I love the most and once they’re out, you can’t take them back. So, I’m learning & doing what I can to avoid future situations like that. I’m sure I’ll blow it a few times, but I have to realize my part in things & if I want loving relationships, I have to help build them.

I think it’s very difficult for someone to feel “safe” confiding or sharing their innermost issues if they think you may use them against them in a fit of rage. Now that, I must say, I haven’t done in years.

But my point is, if we know we have certain issues to find practical ways to diffuse them when you feel the anger, sadness, hurt, etc. building up. I write when I’m mad, so I do “deal” with it & get it out. Then I tear up the paper so nobody ever sees it. That’s a great tool my therapist taught me.

It was nice tonight though, cuz my son & I talked about what transpired & we both listened to each other.

Starting to take off the mask

It’s kind of hard to know exactly how to start writing about having a mental illness. As I said in my previous post, I’m diagnosed with 2 disorders, but in 1998 I was initially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (at that time it wasn’t type I or II-just bipolar). That diagnosis was only because when I was put on anti-depressants (prozac) I became manic (more on that hell another day) which at the time, supposedly meant you were bipolar. Back then, it seemed bipolar was the new & upcoming mental diagnosis – I wonder how many people are still misdiagnosed & being treated for something they don’t have.

Fast fwd to now and I’ve been seeing the same therapist since ’06 or so. I’m no longer on anti-depressants (weaned myself off of them); the only psych. med I’m on is neurontin. When I asked my therapist recently if my diagnosis is still bipolar he said no, it’s Major Depression & Mood Disorders, specifically Borderline Personality Disorder. (If your jaw dropped, pick it up…according to NAMI it’s estimated 4-5% of the population live with it)

I can honestly say I recall living with depression as far back as my memory goes, and the same goes for BPD. I’ve always known I was “different” & never quite fit in with others, I did on a superficial way, but (I’m having a difficult time trying to explain myself here-so I’m gonna quit trying for now)

I’m writing about my mental illness/mood disorder because while I do feel ashamed of it, I shouldn’t. Nobody should. The other day I linked to a blog of a mother who wrote about her son who has a mental illness; I figure if she can write about it, so can I. I know people may look at me differently (and something inside me is screaming “Tell them when you’re depressed you internalize, you don’t hurt other people!” And now that I’ve said that? I’m ashamed, but not so ashamed that I’m deleting it.

I don’t think people with mental illness should be any more embarrassed than someone with diabetes or dyslexia. The problem is, there’s a stigma attached to mental illness, especially with the horrific recent shootings, it seems fingers automatically point at the mentally ill. Perhaps it’s justified but I feel it’s more that people are trying to figure out what kind of person would kill others, especially children.

There are endless possibilities, but so far here are 3 of the “most likely” scenarios I can think of: 1) The person could have a mental illness. 2) It could be a “normal” person that’s had a psychotic break or some sort of mental breakdown. 3) It could be a “normal” person that’s completely evil and hateful.

I think it’s important to try & understand things we don’t, especially if they scare us. Here’s an important article I read & would like to share: Dispelling the Myth of Violence and Mental Illness. My BIGGEST fear is that I’ve overlooked something so obvious to others & I’m coming across as insensitive or a know-it-all; I’ll be the 1st to say: I’m not very educated when it comes to mental illness, however, I’m always trying to learn more.

I can only write about my own experience and hopefully, the person you’ve known me to be is the same person you’ll see me as after I share more about my life; if not, I think I can live with that. I don’t want anybody’s pity, sympathy or anything like that. It may be pretentious of me to assume others would even give a damn about my opinion or life experiences. Regardless, here it is, on the internet, therefore forever “out there.”