Making Meaning of the Madness
So where the hell are those
Journal: Oct '95
Jesus, this is supposed to get easier!
At least that is what people said would happen.
So when do the miracles begin?
Nerve ends are no less raw
Emotions still take control
Kinder memories have not yet pushed aside
I'm supposed, expected, to be strong—
So where the hell are those damn bootstraps?
Every fabric of my being rebelled against accepting depression as a reality. Before Jeff's death I never recognized depression. It was something that happened to other people. But eventually there was no denying the fact ghosts had come to visit, and they had come with a vengeance! For quite a while I reached for those boot straps but to no avail. It seemed the longer I struggled the more frustrated I became because I always believed I could control my destiny. I had never been against a force of this magnitude where no matter how hard I struggled, one step forward invariably took me two back.
Depression had arrived. The black thoughts visited in all manner of deviance, and much of what came terrified me. Hopefully I have been as low as I will ever get, yet none of us has that assurance. Certainly I have been so low that I pray never to return. Some very startling statistics exist regarding the conduct of survivors of suicide, not the least being the number who contemplate their own death. When I first read that, I scoffed. How could anyone being victim to such loss contemplate inflicting similar misery on a loved one? Experience is a great teacher, and from it I have learned recently far more than I ever cared to.
When Grief Overcomes
When grief overcomes
It is no special thing to ask
Why carry on
I have been with this thought
And it terrifies me.
For if I harbour it
Why not each of us?
In my other life, my life with Jeff, nobody could have convinced me that I could or would harbour such thoughts. I am now wiser. Today there are very few surprises. I will never know what torment my son was going through the morning he died, but the night I wrote the above entry, I came as close as I care to having a glimmer of comprehension.
Each of us who has lost a great love knows life will never again be the same. That doesn't mean we won't heal and go on to lead a rich life, but it does mean we will each take a different path getting there. We heal in individual ways. For me it required solitude, juxtaposed with an intense need to communicate. For the most part, my journal took care of both.
What a crappy world! My mind is playing tricks on me. Too many ups and downs. Just when a good day happens, all hell breaks loose again. The visions of Jeff's end return to haunt me when just days ago I thought I had arrived at some peace.
Journal: Jan '95
Shape up, Lundine, you're beginning to wallow. Goddamn it, this is awful. I just can't shake the foreboding and fear and loss and miserableness. Don't get caught feeling sorry for yourself.
Journal: Mar '95
A heaviness has descended over me. Jeff is seldom off my mind. Doing things to stay occupied knowing I need to but none of it brings me any satisfaction. If I was clinically depressed, would I do anything constructive? Either I enjoy wallowing in my unhappiness or this condition is normal. I have no yardstick with which to compare. Surely I owe it to myself to break out of this state.
Journal: Mar '95
Bills, income tax, correspondence for Jeff continue to arrive. Each brings a new miserableness. This is one of the most difficult things I do.
Journal: Apr '95
Sometimes there doesn't need to be any special reason for feeling particularly awful; the feeling arrives of its own volition. Our minds develop coping mechanisms to get us through the days, but obviously the subconscious stores emotions that must spill over and out from time to time, too often at night.
Journal: Jul '95
Some mornings I don't want to get out of bed. I don't know where the feelings come from, but despair and apprehension are two of the biggies. I need a purpose. I need a goal. I remember Michael saying to us that perhaps the biggest thing we will do each day is make that first step toward the shower. The young have so much to teach us.
Journal: Aug '95
I am beginning to harbour thoughts of medication. Even to write these words causes tremors, but I have to face facts. The thought has been there and I am in a very unhappy state that I cannot get out of. Diana has come for a visit, but even she can't make a difference. So here I am wallowing again. This is bloody tedious. For periods of time I am able to push the ugly away and focus upon what is good, but this damn black returns and sucks me under!
Journal: Oct '95
My ghosts have returned to haunt me much earlier than I thought they would. You'd think they would have the good graces to wait until December.
Journal: Nov '95
I wonder if I failed Jeff in any way?
Journal: Nov '95
Not every moment was spent miserably. Certainly there were lighter times, as there must be with all of us, otherwise we would fill to overflowing the mental institutions of this world, but for a long time I was a very unhappy individual! Jeff and Dad died within five weeks of each other; my world as I knew it had collapsed and I was not dealing very well with my emotions.
After weeks of agonizing I reluctantly tried medication for depression, but the side effects were so severe they forced me to abandon pills as an option. For someone who was already fifteen pounds underweight and constantly struggling to keep things clear, pills that caused me to lose my appetite and feel groggy were the last thing I needed. As I watched them swirl down the toilet, I recognized a metaphor. I recognized also they scared me worse than the state I was in.
That scare and a coincident visit from my mother, who must have recognized I was in trouble, were catalysts in helping my recovery. I still had much to work through, but at least I was able to handle my emotions better than when I wrote:
Never IS Forever
In the middle of the night in the rain
The phone rang and I knew there had been a wreck.
But it was your voice on the phone.
Your friend had been badly hurt,
And you were banged up though physically intact.
You sat miserable beside me after the hospital,
Spoke in such anguished tones.
I knew you didn't mean it when you said
You wished you were dead.
Four years later
The phone rang again in the night,
But this time the voice was your brother's.
Beside his, your anguish paled.
Just a gut-tearing "D-a-a-d."
And this time I knew
From you there would be no more phone calls.
What is the point of this dark, morose material? The point is that when we hurt to the degree that losing a child hurts, we are easy prey to the visitations of all that is black and bizarre. We have been bludgeoned, and for a while we cannot function normally. Our entire being becomes unbalanced. My ghosts haunted me day and night, until by the nature of their severity, at times I thought I was losing my sanity.
Give Your Head a Shake
Sometimes I think I am going crazy—
My son sits in a box in the garage
And I sit here contemplating Goddamn poetry.