007: Confronting Burnout

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I’ve been reading a lot about burnout. I guess because I’m there. I’m past there. Since about the second or third week of June I have worked 5 days a week.

That might not sound like a lot. After all, the rest of society works five days a week. Why should I be burnt out over a “normal” work schedule.

It’s not a normal schedule though. I wake up at 2 am on the days I work. I work 10 to 12 hours on the days I work. I all EMS on the days I work. I have to make wellness checks when patients don’t show up to treatment or answer their phones when we try to call. I have to be told by the Sargent that our patient was found deceased in their home. That I’ll never be able to joke with her again; never tell her stories about the kittens or what Ox and I got done on the addition. I’m an introvert constantly empathizing and caring and giving while barely getting enough sleep to keep myself healthy.

I am so out of touch with myself that I don’t know how to care for myself anymore, and I allowed it to happen.

My former supervisor went on vacation for two weeks. During that time I lost 5 patients. Some withdrew from treatment, deciding to go do palliative care instead. Some actually died, as was the case with the wellness check. One moved out of state, but I’ve been so present in our sister clinic that I never got to say goodbye to him before he left.

On top of that, my brother also went on vacation. I knew it would be hard when he left, but I didn’t know I would have panic attacks and feel mom’s death all over again while still having to go to work and hold my shit together.

A couple of Tuesdays ago, I hit my breaking point. I was training a new teammate. We were on the floor taking care of patients. One of my coworkers came on the floor, took one look at me, and asked in an extremely concerned voice, “Are you ok?”

Out of all of the responses I could have given her, all of the things I could have said, I didn’t have it in me to lie; not to myself, not to her. Not to anyone.

“No. I’m not,” I said, on the verge of tears.

We stepped off the floor and I ended up crying in her office explaining how I was exhausted, how I had so much loss that no one could prepare for and the panic attacks due to Jon’s absence.

I’m only human and each of us can only handle so much and I had reached my limit. After emotionally dealing with so much with so little reprieve or self-care I had finally reached the point where I literally couldn’t give anymore because the only then I had left to give was tears.

That coworker ended up covering the rest of my shift that day. I went home and slept for hours. When I woke up I ate then went back to sleep. The next day I went back to work and was able to function.

My former supervisor heard about my break. When she got back from vacation she sent me a text asking me to call her when I had time.

“I wanted to make sure you are ok.” It was so good to hear her voice. It was so connecting to have someone reach out with genuine concern. As I sat outside smoking too many cigarettes, tears silently running down my face I told her everything that had been going on. I told her how I felt like I wasn’t doing anything to create a culture change in our sister clinic. It felt like the only thing I was doing was working more and living less and that I didn’t know how to live anymore. I didn’t know myself. I didn’t have the energy or drive to do any of the things I used to love to do. No cross-stitching, no working out, no dojo.

Nothing.

Just work, sleep, followed by more work.

It’s sucked. It’s sucked so much and now it all feels pointless.

Working 50+ hours for over two months has put a huge strain on my relationship with Ox. It’s left me with nothing to give to our relationship.

My former boss asked if she could have a conversation on my behalf with our new FA. She said she felt like I needed to be back in my home clinic for a while to rebalance. That I needed to work less and be in a familiar environment with familiar people and away from the drama and chaos that is our sister clinic.

She said she is always here for me. I asked, “Even when you’re on vacation?” To which she replied. “Absolutely. Even when I’m on vacation.”

I felt loved after our conversation, much like I felt loved and cared for when my coworker finished out the five hours I had left on my shift. I felt like a person and like I mattered to someone, anyone. That I wasn an invisible cog, replaceable and insignificant. People in my life cared about my emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing and they were actively helping me, not just giving me pretty words about holding on or digging deep or “It will be ok”.

I want a consistent schedule again. I want my three days. I want my days off. I want my routines and quiet moments. I want time away from people and saving lives. I want the energy to save my own.

I want so many things but mostly it comes back to, “I want to be left alone.” I want to not problem solve. I want to turn off my emotional system. I want to disconnect so all of the damage from overworking and begin to heal. I know it’s going to be an extremely slow process. I know it’s going to take a while to recover from what I let the past few months be.

I also know it needs to happen. I need the space and time to be tired, to sleep, to slowly regain energy and drive and purpose again. After that step, I’ll need time to begin returning to the habits that I know are good for me. Working out. Eating well. Sleeping deeply for enough hours. Keeping up with chores and my personal environments. Things that help me feel like I have autonomy and like I’m an adult able to function and cope with life.

I want to get off my antidepressants. I want a life where I don’t have to be on them to cope with burnout. I want work to be sustainable and realistic. I want to have experiences and run mud obstacle 5ks. I want a dojo where I can spare and laugh and learn and be part of something larger than myself. I want to stop smoking but right now it’s my only way to get away from people; to get off the floor, so I keep doing it.

I’ve reached out to another coworker today asking for the contact information for her therapist. I feel like I’m back at the point I was at when mom died. There’s so much not right in my life that I don’t know where to start. I don’t need someone to fix my problems. I need someone to listen; to be a safe place where I can talk, where I have a whole hour devoted to myself where I can start to figure out and untangle things.
Where I can get an outside perspective and other ideas I might not have thought to try.

I don’t need someone to fix my life. Only I can do that. I need the time to figure out how to do that and the resources that will make my efforts successful.

I have today and tomorrow off from work. I haven’t had two days off in a row for so long. The thought of that much time makes me want to cry in relief but at the same time fills me with anxiety. I don’t know what to do if I’m not at work, and that’s so sad and heartbreaking to say.

How can one not know what to do outside of work? How does someone not have a hobby or passion or an idea of what would make them feel ok?

I don’t know. I really don’t know how I let myself get here, but here is where I am.

Ox has been supportive today. Well… he’s supportive every day, but today we both didn’t work. We were both home. We did chores together. We put clothes away, together. We organized things, together. We were together through all of it and that made it feel doable. I wasn’t alone. I didn’t have to figure it out by myself. We could take breaks. We had a homemade breakfast. I didn’t have to drink a protein drink on the way to work because I didn’t have time to digest actual food.

I’ve been having nightmares. It’s the first time I can remember ever being afraid to sleep. Which super sucks because I’m so physically, mentally, and emotionally tired but my brain is being a terrorist and so I’m terrified that if I sleep I’ll have dreams again.

Dreams of rotting teeth or sliding downward and screaming for my mom, or searching the grocery store for the one thing I know I need to get and being unable to find it no matter how hard I look. Or dark monsters who travel from deep in the underworld through tunnels made of bones to attack me.

They’re awful. So awful and I don’t want to have them but I don’t want to take meds so I can’t make myself not dream any more than I could will myself to do it before they started.

I need my life back. I need myself. And deep down, and I want to say I need my mom but I don’t know what good it would do to say that out loud. She’s still going to be dead. She’s still not going to be able to answer the phone.

I want my mom. I may not “need” her the way I need air or water or food, but I want her so badly right now. I want her hug, her scent. I want her words telling me that it’s ok, that I’m safe.

Ox has been doing that a lot today. Whenever we step outside or he’s close to me I reach out and put his hand on my cheek or the top of my head. I don’t know why it makes me feel safer, but it does. It’s helping through today.

Cleaning helped. Eating helped. Showering and meal prepping helped. It’s not fixing anything major, but it’s reminding me that there are shreds of me still left under all of the exhaustion and shattered stress and loss.

I’ve been trying to cross stitch more. I’ve watched all of Cursed on Netflix. I started watching Sweet Tooth. I’ve been cuddling with the kittens and sleeping when I feel tired.

I’m burnt out. Severely. I feel like burnout is its own time of injury and injuries take time to heal. They take rest, and calmness, patience, and understanding. Compassion.

I have two more weeks to go before the new schedule comes out where, in theory, I will be back at my home clinic.

This next week I only work four days. Most of them are shorter days, and one of them is at my home clinic. The next week is another week of 5 days, but two of them are at my home clinic. And then, maybe, possibly, things will get better.

There’s so much more to write about other than my burnout, but this was what I needed to spew the most. I can get through two more weeks. I can get through one week. I can have two days off in a row and survive. I can be something other than work. I can be tired and drained and lost and still be whole; not broken.

That’s something I’m still trying to keep in my mind. I’m still trying to work on being my friend rather than my enemy. I’m still not broken. I’m just really really, tired and that’s ok.

Soon. I’ll be through this soon and maybe then I’ll be able to breadcrumb my way back to me.

006: Confessing to Being Whole

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I have been.

I have been so many things between my last writing and this one.


I have been happy. I have been sad. I have been alone. I have been suicidal. I have been on the verge of quitting my job. I have been promoted. I have been lost. I have been found. I have been connected. I have been confused, numb, hopeless, devoid, hungry, cold, hot, rage-filled, desperate, confident, unshakeable, and shattered.

I have been so, so many things. Tiring things. Exhausting things. Passionate and human things.

And at the end of it all, I arrive here.

I am.

Simply that. I am.

I have been waiting, avoiding, rejecting, searching, grasping, flailing, falling, sinking, drowning, dying.

I have known that I needed to write for months. Ox has suggested it over and over again, but inside I knew it wasn’t time yet. While I “wanted” to write, I didn’t WANT to write.

I didn’t want to sit with myself and hear myself. I didn’t want to figure it out. I didn’t want to understand or deal with pain and truth or any of it.

So I didn’t. For so long, I didn’t hear myself or let others hear me. The inner me. The me that’s been hiding soft, frail, vulnerable things for three years now.

One of my friends from work, a close friend, someone who in the timeline of my life is fairly new, but deeply loved and valued, gave me a book two days ago.

Untamed. I have already read it.

I have also read a book recommended to me by my dad. Unfuck Yourself

I have thought deeply on both books.

While Unfuck Yourself spoke to parts of me, Untamed touched things in my core. The words and messages in Untamed left me stripped of my outer armor and made me sit within myself. My inner self would cry out at points in the book, “This! This here! This is what I need you to hear. This is is why I’m dying inside you! This is why we hurt. This is why we feel unfulfilled.”

There was and is so much in that book. So much honesty. So much life. So much vulnerability. So much truth, about society, people, experiences…

And so here I sit.

I sit here, grounded, after a night of crying while Ox held me and I confessed to things I never thought I would confess to. Things I never thought I would share because they’re “dumb” or “stupid” or “fucked up”. Things that are too precious to me to risk the change of them being hurt or injured by rejection. But after reading Untamed I couldn’t NOT share them. These are my truths. These are my heartbeat and heartbreak. These things are why I keep going and why each day is agony.

And so, as we lay in bed, so far past our bedtime, we talked. We connected. I shared and cried and breathed and was held through all of the pain and vulnerability.


Me: I’m terrified of losing you. I’m terrified that you’ll die and I’ll have to figure out my life all over again and I don’t want to do that.

Me: When you say “I love you” I hear mom through you. I feel like she put you in my life because she knew I would need you. I hear her because you say it the same way she said it. With unconditional acceptance.

Me: Inside all of this is so small and frail and I want to protect it because I don’t want it to get hurt. I know not everyone will believe me. I know it’s not logical, but I know what it feels like inside me. I know it’s real for me.


And so I’ve said it. All of it.

I’ve admitted to it out loud for the first time. I hear my mom through Ox. I feel my mom through his hugs. And I’m terrified of losing that and I know people will read or see this and think that I still have issues to work through or that I’m fucked up or that feelings are dumb and logically none of this is right or ok or whatever other things people say.

I KNOW! Ok!? I ALREADY FUCKING KNOW!

And I type that with all of the internal rage searing through my body that I feel towards my evil inner voice which for so long has kept me from truly being me since mom’s death. From truly living my life and just being at peace with who I am. And I’m so fucking tired of it.

I’m tired of feeling like I can’t say things or express myself fully or be me because there’s something about me that’s too much. Too big, too small, too strong, too weak, too hard, too soft, too logical, too emotional…

Reading Untamed was very similar to when I finally read about INFJ personality types. I finally had permission to simply be. To exist. To breath. To think. To feel.

And so here I am, no longer hiding, searching, avoiding, struggling, flailing.

My biggest fear is losing Ox. The kittens would be my left vest, keeping me afloat through the destructive waves of grief which I know will crash over my life when he dies.

It will not my brothers, or my dad, or my friends or patients or my job which keep me going…

Saber and Dagger would be the two, tiny creatures that would keep me connected by thin, invisible, unbreakable strands to life.

Despite my grief and pain, they would need me to love them. They would need cat food so I would have to work to afford it. They would need to be fed so I would have to get up in the mornings. They would need and want cuddles so I would have to touch and interact with them; feel their warmth and their love.

I would have to do these things for them and so I would stay. For them. Because of them. And I would, in time, learn to live again just like I did when mom died. I would stay through all of the hard, all of the pointless, all of the lostness, and because I would stay I would eventually learn how to continue.

Another inner truth; I honor my mom and Ox by living. Dying would be so incredibly easy to do. Almost effortless when compared to living. I honor them by not giving up even though I want to. I value my connection with them enough to keep going. It’s worth the pain of being alive to have moments like last night where I can awkwardly, introvertedly word vomit all over Ox and still be loved. Unconditionally loved. Unconditionally accepted. Held and safe. Warm and unalone.

I’m done hiding. I’m done lying to myself. I’m done trying to force myself to be things I’m not or not feel things I do.

I’m done telling myself that what I feel is fucked up or wrong. I used to be my friend, but somewhere along the way, I stopped. I forgot how. I fell back into old habits. I’ve let them consume me because they are comfortable, familiar, known, and so much older and easier than the newer habits of self-love and self-acceptance I had been working on after mom died.

I have either not been there for myself or I have beaten myself down internally because that’s easier than trying to help myself grow.

I slept close to 13 hours between last night and today and for the first time in a while, I woke up not feeling dead inside. I woke up emotionally and mentally exhausted, to the point that I canceled my dentist appointment (woohoo! canceled plans are the best plans!), but I woke up feeling whole, cleaner, lighter; like I wasn’t carrying all these dirty secrets around inside of me that if people knew they would point at me in shame or disgust and reject me from the group because I was no longer acceptable.

I woke up not fearing unworthiness.

I woke up knowing that I am not unworthy. That is what last night showed me. If others reject me for being authentic and having the integrity, the loyalty to myself to stand beside and with my emotions, then that says more about them than it does of me.

I am still growing, learning, hurting. I am still becoming who I am. Constantly. Continuelessly. Tirelessly. I accept the death of my old self, my self before mom’s death. I accept that I am strong. I accept that I have pain inside my heart. I accept that we, all of us, are mortal and that life can be prolonged but death cannot be stopped.

I accept that I am flawed. I accept that I am whole. I accept that this new whole is different from my old whole. Nothing is missing; it’s that life is different and I do not fully understand all of those differences yet. That is what makes it uncomfortable. Because it’s different and unknown and as a human I crave the known and comfortable.

I am not and have never been broken.

I have been and am human.

I have been unlearned, undiscovered, unheard, unknown; but never, ever have I been broken and I finally accept that about myself. After over five years of listening/not-listening, or avoiding/searching, rejecting/accepting…

I accept I am different from what I was.

Different doesn’t mean bad. Different doesn’t mean damaged.

Different does not mean broken.

So here I am. Whole. Whole within myself, within my relationship, within my life. My mother is dead and I am whole, not broken.

I guess that’s the main thing I realized while reading Untamed. I’m not broken. I’m me. And me is a very beautiful, real, and messy thing.

Daily Post 005: Prescription Refill

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Today is the first time in ages where I have woken up and felt awake. I’m not deathly tired. I didn’t go back to sleep after haphazardly stumbling to use the restroom. It’s such a weird feeling… feeling rested… that I don’t really know what to do… so here I am, sitting in front of my computer, trying to figure it out.

I think there’s a lot that factors into this “rested” feeling. The main one, I think, is medication related.

About three weeks ago I ran out of my Zoloft. I didn’t think much of it. I would get around to refilling the prescription “eventually”. I had stopped taking it before when I was on 25mg and I didn’t notice any side effects so I would be alright…

Wrong.

So hardcore wrong. Omg. >.<;

My dose was increased to 50mg towards the end of last year. My doctor increased it due to my suicidal feelings during nursing school. So queue up discontinuation syndrome about three days after being off of said medication. God, it sucked so hardcore. Mood swings, insomnia, fatigue, depersonalization… which I didn’t know actually had a term.

That feeling where you know you’re not yourself… but you are… but you aren’t… None of the thoughts you are having are really yours, but you’re the only one inside your head so they must be your thoughts… your actions… your feelings… That feeling of having your body hijacked but you’re the one doing the hijacking so how do you stop it or change it?

That feeling where dreams seem halfway real and reality seems halfway fake. You know you’re awake but your skin feels different. Everything is sort of soft, cloudy, hazy… You’re detached and you know you are but you can’t find your way back…

I spent over a week feeling like that. Like I would never be myself again. That these feelings were the rest of my life.

I got the prescription refilled. Making that phone call left me exhausted. Picking up the phone, finding the number, talking to someone and explaining that was going on… I wanted to cry I was so tired.

The next day I picked up the prescription. I then had to wait another week before the meds starting to build up in my system again. Each day got progresively better. I started being able to sleep at night. I started having focus at work again. I started feeling like reality was actually real.

Each day I have felt myself become more balanced. I get closer to being the me I remember being… the me I want to be. The me who has drive and disciple to do things. The me who doesn’t get exhausted by putting laundry away or making a phone call.

I do think a major factor of this past month being hard is the whole med issue. I’ve been more diligent with my Synthroid which continues to be something I struggle with. I finally set up an appointment with my endocrinologist. I have a blood draw tomorrow after work. My appointment with the doctor is next Wednesday. We’ll see if the increase that was made towards the end of last year was/is enough for my blood levels.

Yeah… I was supposed to meet with her in January and never did… There’s a lot of things that I haven’t been doing or have been pushing off. It’s been easier to not do them. Easier to stay inside, away from people, sleeping through the hard and the hurt of winter and mom’s death.

Mom’s fifth death day has come and gone. There’s a whole story behind that. I still haven’t gotten mom her flower. I don’t feel as bad about that as I thought I would. I think a lot of that has to do with Jon and I going out together on the day of her death. We went to Red Lobster, on of her favorite places. We drank and ate and shared stories back and forth. Memories. Emotions. Fears. We laughed. We had tears stinging our eyes. We remembered her together, shared in her memory together, and I think that would have made mom happy. Happier than me buying a flower to mark another year I have survived without her.

I will still get her flower. It’s still important to me. But I think where ever mom is, she knows that it’s ok to be a little late because what ended up happening instead was so much better than what I could have hoped for.

I haven’t been to the gym in a while. I have a membership to the YMCA again. The constant tiredness and consistent depression/apathy has kept me from actually going and doing anything. When I think about packing up my stuff, or changing, or driving, or scanning my card… I feel drained. I feel crushed beneath all of the steps it would take to actually get there, let alone actually working out.

I’ve continued to not eat the best because it’s so much easier to have a cookie or chips than it is to make a meal. But all of that is slowly starting to turn around. I feel like I can go to the gym today. I want to go to the gym today. I want to bike and listen to music. I want to push past all of the anxiety of “what if I’m not good enough?” I know I’m good enough. I know in a week, in two weeks, I’ll be so much better endurance-wise than I am in this current moment. I’ll feel better about myself. I’ll have an outlet for the stress and frustration of work.

Going will help me in so many ways, and while I haven’t done it, haven’t wanted to do it… today is different.

Part of me is scared of the difference. I’ve been… “not me” for so long that I don’t really know what to do. How do I function in the now? How do I function today with these weird feelings of productivity and energy?

And a guess a big part of my problem has always been this aching and longing to be “the old me”. The me before mom died. I know I wrote about it before. About how I need to accept the me I am now. That I can’t go back to who I was before mom died. Too much has happened. Too much has changed. The old me can still be valued and cherished, but I can’t keep expecting myself to be something I no longer am.

I’m not 27 any more. And that’s ok.

So I think that’s going to be my internal project going forward. Accepting the me of today. Not the me who went to the dojo six days a week for 1-3 hours each time. No the me who was unemployeed for a year. Not the me who was a teacher. I want to be ok with the me of today. I want to go forward with current me rather than constantly pining for someone who doesn’t exist anymore.

I am worthy. I have value. I can and will do amazing things. Starting with a to-do list. After writing I’m going to open up my Clever Fox notebook and I’m going to figure out a handful of things. And then I’m going to go to the gym and bike in front of the windows where I can see the sunny day while I listen to music. And then Ox and I will have lunch and get some of the things we need to finish up “Project-Remodel the Bedroom”.

Today is my only day off from work this week. I’ve picked up a lot of extra days recently. I’m sure that feeds into the burnout and compassion fatigue. The depression and “anti-people” feelings. After this week I don’t have extra days. After this week I get to spend a week with my dad because he’s coming to visit. I get to have my three days off in a row where I can make progress on projects and the house and myself.

I think after this week it will be nice and I’m going to start with today because finally, for the first time since starting nursing school, I feel like I can.

Daily Post 004: School and Storytime

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Wooo! Writing twice in one week! Two in a row actually. That should be an achievement in itself.

Quick recap before getting into more “life” stories since I do have a stash of some pretty good ones… ones without graphic pictures of near-death experiences due to cats…

Not a whole lot to report for yesterday. I did laundry. I meal prepped. That’s another thing that should be listed as an accomplishment. I haven’t been prepping meals or grocery shopping like I used to. I’ve been haphazardly eeking by for so long that anything even halfway resembling my previous routines is celebrated as a win inside my head.

So yeah, there’s that. I put clothes away. Still waiting for the drawer organizers to come via Amazon. Looking forward to those and forcing organization back into my life. I talked to a coworker for a while. I organized the bathroom drawers where I keep all my morning stuff. Still not 100% happy with them, but they’re better than they were.

Mama Ox cleared off a shelf for me in the kitchen last night. That might be factoring into my whole “lack of routine” mood. For the longest time I didn’t have a place to keep anything. Maybe with having a spot where I belong in the kitchen that will change.

I did go through my notebooks yesterday. I haven’t been the best about making to-do lists but out of everything, that’s probably the one thing I’m most consistent with other than meds.

I registered for my summer class. That took some back and forth with my dean since the class I needed wasn’t showing up for me. It was nice to “talk” to her. It’s been almost four months since I’ve had any interaction with the nursing staff. I had another email this morning from her with the contact information for my Nursing Lab 2 instructor. I plan to reach out and introduce myself since she’s one of the few people I haven’t met in person yet.

I also found out I can register for fall classes already so I intend to do that at some point. Maybe today. Today is going better than it was this morning.

There was a lot of sexy time yesterday with Ox. Not going to lie, I was totally ok with all of it. I don’t think it was so much the sex that I needed or wanted. It was the intimacy. The closeness. The touching. The warmth. The moments of life not mattering and to-do lists not existing and levels of productivity not being met.

For a few hours, none of that mattered. It was just me and him and that was really nice. Connective. Stress-relieving.

I did read him my writing. That’s something I like and sometimes dislike about our relationship. He lets me read my writings to him. It’s how he can know what’s going on in my head. What I’m feeling. What I can’t communicate sometimes when we’re trying to have a conversation because I still don’t know what I think or feel yet.

It also means he knows about the times like last week, where he said my name. He sees me cry as I read out loud how I felt and why I felt that way. And so, just like that particular writing, yesterday he heard all about my connective experience with Jon and I realized how it must have made him feel like a third wheel.

Here Ox is, super supportive, stood with me through cancer, let’s me cry, and never once said “no” to anything I wanted to do with the bedroom. Yet here I am, talking Jon up like he’s the only support person I have in my life who understands me or cares… It left me feeling sort of shitty to be honest. It gave me some things to think about at the very least. I’m still thinking through them.

So… that was yesterday. No trip to the gym. No breakfast with my brother since we did lunch on Tuesday. No crazy day of crushing my lists. But it was a good day overall and in the frail emotional state I find myself in most days recently, I take comfort in knowing that I was able to have two good days in a row. I got stuff done and while it might not have been everything, “some things” is more than the “nothing” it could have been.

Today hasn’t been a total wash either which is comforting. I woke up at 8:30 which is late for me. I didn’t do a whole lot. Had part of a protein bar, talked to Ox, curled back up in bed…

It wasn’t until around 10:30 that I started actually “doing” anything. Jon had messaged me asking to take his dog out. I guess he had been running late and didn’t get a chance to do it before he had to go to work. Since I was literally still in bed I didn’t have a reason not to agree to help him out.

Ox called when he was off work. We agreed to meet at the diner I really like for lunch. That forced me to get out of bed finally. I drove to meet him and we had an enjoyable meal together. I don’t know why I love their omelets and hash browns so much. Maybe because it’s the closest thing I can get to Waffle House here in Nebraska.

We went to Costco afterward to get gas. That was the last “work prep” task I had on my list. Making sure I didn’t have to wake up super early in the morning to fill up before driving to work.

Nope. Here I am with clean clothes, food for lunches, and a full tank of gas.

Irrational Right Brain: Bring on the work week!

We stopped at Walmart after filling up. Ox wanted to look at mounting brackets for a hard drive. We also wanted to take a look at some bedding stuff and totes for winter clothing.

The mounting bracket was a bust as was the bedding. But we did get the totes so I can take care of some of the remaining piles in the room. That will feel nice when I get around to it.

I stopped at the apartment to take care of the dog. Since Jon wasn’t home and everyone else was at work, the apartment was extremely quiet. I ended up staying there for a while, napping, soaking in the solitude. I hadn’t realized how much I missed silence and the lack of energy around me until I curled up on my memory foam couch under my weighted blanket and just breathed.

I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to do. I didn’t have to worry or process or any of the stuff I feel like I have to constantly do. It was one of the best naps I’ve had in a while.

After waking up I came back to the house and so here I am. Writing. I feel ready to pack away the winter stuff. I feel able to register for those final classes. It’s odd how a little bit of alone time can completely change my mindset and mood, but there we are.

There’s still a few hours left in the day. It’s sunny outside and the wind it’s horrifically cold. I still have time to write a list and take care of a few things before enjoying an evening of cross-stitching and I’m looking forward to all of it. The productivity and the relaxation. I’m even looking forward to going back to work which is something I forgot I could do.

Alright. Now that “catch-up” is done, on to storytime.

Early on in the renovation process, Ox and I decided that we were going to tear out the ceiling. The room had a drop-down ceiling for whatever reason. Neither of us liked it. So since we were working on the room anyway, we decided we would take the extra time to get rid of it and make the room more like what we wanted it to be.

Well… come to find out while the addition was being built, someone stepped through the ceiling, so there was a giant hole no one knew about in the southeast corner of the ceiling… Well… there was no going back with the drop-down ceiling at that point, so it became an issue of, “How do we want to fix this?”

We tabled that issue for a bit as we continued removing tiles from the ceiling. When we got to the northeast corner we started finding Reese wrappers… in the ceiling…

Ox looked short of sheepish as he explained when he was younger he and his brothers used to have a bunk bed in that area, and his bed was the top bunk. The wrapper most likely was hidden in the ceiling after he had snuck candy from his parents.

I gave him points for being creative in hiding the evidence. XD

So… with all of the tiles and supportive framing removed, all that was left of the drop-down ceiling was the metal supports lining the walls. They were being held in place with screws.

Irrational Right Brain: I can totally take screws out and be helpful! Woo! Something I’m not terrified of fucking up!

Universe: Hold my beer.

Things were going well. I had taken the east wall supports down, most of the south wall, and was beginning to work on the north wall. I got about three screws in. Everything’s going fine. Got to the fourth screw. Began to take it out… and the power to the house goes out.

Irrational Right Brain: Oh god! Oh god! Oh god!

Ox had been out of the room while this was going on. He came back in calling out, “What did you do?”

Me: I did what you told me to do!

We got the power turned back on by flipping some of the breakers. Ox had me get back on the ladder to show him EXACTLY what I had been doing when the power went out. As I started trying to remove the screw I could see sparks inside the wall.

At that point, Ox took over. We got the screw out and removed the drywall around the area in question. Wouldn’t you know… thirty years ago when Ox’s dad had been building the room, he put a screw directly through the electrical wiring and into a stud…

Yeah… THIRTY YEARS… and the house never caught on fire… So now whenever I have to use a power tool I give Ox shit about knocking the power to the house out or being “set up for failure” from thirty years in the past.

We were able to fix up the ceiling and we corrected the electrical issue. I have way more respect for people in those home improvement/remodeling shows. This endeavor was no joke. It did make for some good stories though, and even though there were moments of frustration between Ox and myself, I think we worked pretty well together as a team.

Daily Post 003: Update with Battle Scars

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I’m glad to say that this post “shouldn’t” be super emo or depressing.

Work hasn’t been bad. Monday started off rough. There was an issue with the water room. I had to call the on-call bio-med at 4:30 in the morning. That’s never a fun way to start the day…

We got the issue figured out but we were 30 minutes late starting treatments. The patients were super understanding which helped the day not be a complete disaster.

There was an issue with the thermostat as well… Because why would there only be one issue to deal with on a Monday morning? -_-;

I called my FA later in the morning. I explained the issue with the water room and what I thought was going on with the thermostats. Four of them were reading at -42 and two others weren’t registering anything. I found the number for the technician who had done work at our clinic a few weeks ago. I told him what was going on; how it was 98.1 degrees in the water room and even the patients were complaining about it being uncomfortably warm on the treatment floor.

Long story short… he had to drive 12 hours from Ohio back to our clinic to fix the issue. That was not what I had been hoping when I called him. I had hoped it was a simple, “Try flipping this breaker,” or “Hit this hidden reset button.” But alas, it was not something simple that I could correct on my own.

My teammate reported that the temperatures at the clinic were much better yesterday, so, with luck, there won’t be further issues with anything for a while.

Yesterday I had lunch with my brother and a teammate I haven’t seen in almost a year. It was a fantastic outing. We went to a Mexican restaurant. We all had a drink and chatted about what’s been going on with the region and with our personal lives. It was extremely connective and I’m glad I went even though I had been thinking of ditching due to tiredness.

The house is coming along. I haven’t gotten anything done in regards to the addition, but I’m ok with that. Instead, Ox and I set up my new computer desk. Yesterday I spent the morning setting up my computer and doing cable management. We’re still in the process of sorting things out in the room but it’s coming together nicely.

We got the bed frame set up last week. We got a new mattress, too. It’s a hybrid mattress so there are springs, but there’s a layer of memory foam on top of them. I have my three-inch foam mattress topper on it, too, along with my army of pillows. Muahahahahaha!

The only thing missing is my weighted blanket which is still at the apartment.

I’ve been sleeping better since we got the new mattress. I don’t wake up as often during the night. I don’t have back pain when I get out of bed. My arms aren’t numb either. I feel rested and ready for my day when I wake up. It’s a weird feeling after waking up feeling crappy for so long.

The mini-dresses are working well so far. I ordered drawer organizers which should be here Friday. If they work the way I’m hoping they do then I can fully scratch that part of “project-bedroom” off the list.

I ordered a few things to utilize my locker at work, too. It will give me more vertical space along with some drawer space so I can keep more things at work. I’m hoping that makes work “feel” better. It’s been nearly three years since I started working at this clinic. I don’t know why I haven’t done this sooner. Maybe I’ll even put pictures on the outside so it’s not so bland and boring. It’s my tiny little section in the clinic. I want it to feel like mine.

I registered for Nursing Lab 2 today. The summer semester starts towards the end of May. I’ll only have to go to campus once a week on Thursdays for roughly three hours. I’m actually looking forward to being back in school and seeing my instructors again. I won’t know any of the students, but I’m ok with that. I know I can make it through the class without them.

I’m not sure if that came out the way I wanted it to…

I’ve been with two other groups of students so far. There’s my original class; the one I started with before I was diagnosed with cancer. Then there’s the group I was with last semester while I was doing the LPNS program full-time. In both instances, I didn’t pass my classes because of the people I was with. While I made “friends” in both groups, I didn’t do study sessions or really hangout with anyone.

The group I’m with won’t make or break me I guess is what I’m getting at. I can adapt and adjust to being in a new group and so I’m not worried about not knowing anyone. I’ll know my instructors and those are the people I truly connect and interact with. They’re the people I’m looking forward to seeing again.

I’m looking forward to it being summer as well. The past two days have been sunny, but super windy and cold. While that’s frustrating, I’m grateful there’s at least sunlight. The grass is started to turn green again and the trees are budding. It won’t be cold for forever. I just have to hold out a little longer.

Let’s see… what else…

Jon’s birthday was this past Saturday. I worked but once I was done with the day I spent the evening with him. I got him a Ninja Foodi for his birthday along with wings and ribs for dinner. I let him keep the leftovers so he didn’t have to worry about food for a few days. We spent the whole time chatting about pretty much everything. We had light conversation about random nerdy stuff along with deep conversation where he asked, “So how are you doing really?”

I answered honestly. I’m not really sure how I’m doing. Mom’s deathday is coming up which sucks. I hurt. I told him about the experience with Ox and him saying my name. I talked about how weird, “random” things trigger my grief and I don’t know what to do other than breathing through the pain and to try being my friend. I try really hard to not give myself shit for hurting or being sad but sometimes that’s hard to do. My logical brain is good at throwing “shoulds” at me. I should be doing this or I shouldn’t be feeling that.

I’m human and some days, some moments, are better than others. My moments with Jon, on his birthday and during lunch were really nice. I can remember what we were doing at the hospital on all of these days. I can remember stringing the letters together for Jon’s birthday and hanging them in mom’s room across from her hospital bed. I can remember screaming in the car as I drove from the hospital every morning because that was the only thing keeping me sane and grounded when I was around other people or talking to the doctors.

This year wasn’t that year. This year was different where I had the money to get Jon a gift he wouldn’t have bought for himself because it was expensive. He and I have worked through so many issues from our past and through the past four years. We’ve worked on our relationship to the point where we can sit together and talk about silly things and D&D jokes along with the hard, painful things like triggers and how the thought of giving up is always at the edge of our consciousness because missing mom sucks.

I don’t mean for that to sound emo or to steer this writing towards depressing topics. I guess, for me, I take comfort in having someone who understands what I feel. I have someone I can talk to about those feelings and because I can talk about them, they don’t sit inside my head eating away at my mind. I have someone who can give me a hug while kissing the top of my head and say, “I feel the suckage with you and we’ll both get through it.”

Having a hug like that, one where the pain is embraced rather than erased or covered up… One where I can hurt and cry and say, “I love you,” as if it’s my last chance to say it and have someone understand that I need to say it that way because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say it again… It helps. It helps to openly acknowledge those things about myself with someone, to someone, and to have it understood and acceptable.

Anywho… Since I haven’t written in forever I want to switch gears and write about some of the stories that have happened in my life. We’ll only do one for right now since this is already a pretty long post compared to the nothing I’ve written for months.

And I suppose we can start with the most random one of all… how Saber tried to kill me.

Before the room renovations, my old computer desk used to be set up in what was the closet of the bedroom. Above my desk, there was shelving which the cats could reach. Both Saber and Dagger had jumped into the space to explore and while I didn’t like them being in that area of the room… they’re cats and there’s no way I was going to be able to keep them from doing cat stuff.

Well… there was one morning where I was sitting at the computer while Ox was at work. I was playing World of Warcraft and totally not paying attention to anything going on around me. I heard some noise like rustling and the next thing I knew I had searing pain down my face and a very stunned cat in my lap.

Of course, I was stunned, too. I mean, what the fuck just happened?!?!?!

I checked Saber to make sure she was ok. Yeah, she seems fine. Not yelling in pain or anything. Just sort of dazed. I then press my shirt sleeve to my forehead. Yep… that’s blood. Fuck.

I pressed the sleeve to some other areas of my face that hurt. They all came back dark red. Super fuck… Of course, this would happen while both Ox’s kids are here, and I work in two days. No way anything is going to be remotely healed. But for the moment fuck that train of thought. I need to make it to the bathroom without freaking anyone out in case I pass out. I can see from both eyes still, so at least there’s that going for me…

I super ninja-like stealthed my way through the living room with blood trickling down my face. It helped that the kids were engrossed in their own computer games. I shut the bathroom door and looked at myself for the first time to see what the damage actually was.

Not going to lie… it was pretty impressive. At that point, I started feeling nauseous. I knew my time was limited. I took a washcloth and got it wet. I cleaned up as much of the scratch going down the center of my forehead as best I could. I could feel my blood pressure dropping. Not wanting to add a concussion to the list of injuries from the cat attack, I laid down on the bathroom floor. When I felt ok enough to try standing again, I did, and that’s how it went for a while. Clean as much as I could, lay down so I didn’t pass out. At some point, I wasn’t quite fast enough and I did pass out, but luckily I was already on the ground for that one.

Once I got the bleeding under control I got anti-bacterial ointment and made sure all of the scratches were covered in it. I had a pretty long and deep cut down the center of my forehead, a pretty nasty cut in the corner of my left eyelid, one on my nose, and a few smaller scratches on my cheek and lip.

All in all, it looked like I had gotten into a knife fight, but nooooo… here I was, Ms. Badass Muay Thai Jujitsu Chick and I was going to have to tell everyone that a cat fell on my face…

Fuuuuuck my life…

Why couldn’t it have been something awesome like a knife fight? ;-;

Once the cuts were clean, I went back to the room to lay down. I was still feeling pretty nauseous. Saber curled up next to me, purring and being super loving. I think she was still spooked from her fall. I took a picture of the two of us cuddling together and I swear, she looks super smug. Like, “Yeah. That’s right. I did that. Try me, bro.”

I sent a picture to my coworkers and brothers along with Ox so they would know the next time they saw me I would have some impressive battle scars. There were a lot of jokes tossed back and forth which helped me feel better about the situation.

Once I finally emerged from the room Ox’s parents were surprised about what happened. They had no idea anything was going on. Score one for me because that’s totally what I was going for.

Irrational Right Brain: Hey, guys! What’s up? Oh? These? Yeah… They’re just some new scratches… that I got on my face… from a cat…

The Friday I went back to work was “cat victim awareness day” as I had to explain repeatedly what had transpired. While my patients were worried about me, we’re able to laugh and joke about it now.

It makes for a funny story, but at the time it sucked. I was legit worried about Saber being injured and my eyesight being screwed. After that, I was worried about scarring. I kept up a regime of cleaning the scratches and applying the anti-bacterial ointment. Sadly I don’t have epic battle scars. All of the scratches have healed amazingly well.

With renovating the room, the selves which Saber fell from are no longer an issue. They came out during the “tear down all the walls” phase of the project.

Sort of graphic but here’s the picture I sent to every one of Saber’s smugness and her pawy-work. Please disregard the messed up hair… also… fur babies… I swear, I can’t make up half the shit that happens in my life. XD

Saber the Smug

Daily Post 002: A Writing from Last Week

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Written last week
Posted today


I’m writing again. It feels like an accomplishment. I’m doing something. I’m taking time for myself.

Towards the end of February, Ox got me a new phone. My old one was broke all to hell. The sound quality on calls was crappy at best. There was one morning where we accidentally took each other’s phones to work, so he was stuck with mine all day. Not long after was when the “new phone” happened.

I like it. I’ve gotten a shockproof case for it which I like. It’s all celestial with blues and purples and stary nebula. I like holding it. Touching it. Being all weird and INFJy with it.

I’ve gotten most of my apps at least installed on the new phone; not that I really use many of them. I’ve even gone through and logged into a majority of them. That meant I had to either guess my password right, look it up, or reset it because I couldn’t figure it out. I’ve had to reblock a bunch of spam numbers, but those are getting fewer and further in-between.

Irrational Right Brain: Fuck you, Florida. I’m not answering your calls.

Ox and I have renovated the bedroom. That started shortly after my previous writing. Originally we were just going to patch some spots on the walls and repaint. Nothing major…

Well, then we ended up redoing the ceiling, tearing down two walls, adding soundproofing to the north wall, redoing ALL of the drywall, putting on new outlet covers, getting a new overhead light, and painting both ceiling and walls.

We still need to get a new door and put up the trim around the ceiling. We might be doing some new shelving in the closet area which used to be where my computer desk went. We’ve purchased a bunch of stuff off Amazon which has been trickling in. Currently, we’re waiting on a new bedframe. It’s roughly 18 inches tall, so we’ll be able to fit mini dressers under the bed essentially giving us a bedframe will drawers under it. That’s going to free up so much space in the room. The frame comes in tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.

Overall I really like how well the project turned out. There are still piles here and there since we can’t finalize the rest of everything else without the bed frame. I’m trying to not let them bother me too much.

Ox and I have already discussed the game plan for working on the addition. I doubt I’ll work on it today or tomorrow. It’s been cold and cloudy. One of my patients isn’t doing well and it’s almost mom’s death day. Internally things have been sort of shitty. I miss how I felt while I was working on the room. I miss seeing progress and results for my time and effort, but for the past week, I’ve been sad. My grief is easily triggered.

My goal right now is to keep going, one day at a time. I didn’t do so hot yesterday. I slept for most of it. It felt good to sleep. I did cross-stitch some. That’s something I’ve been doing more this past week. It gives me something quiet to do. Something that doesn’t require higher-level thinking. I can simply be. I can let my mind relax and not worry about anything other than the thread I’m working with.

I’ve renewed my membership at the YMCA though I haven’t gone to a class yet. Small steps I guess. I haven’t wanted to be around people. Maybe once the weather turns again and the sun comes back and it’s not a frozen tundra outside I’ll be more ok with going out.

It’s weird to think that last Thursday I was super productive and got so many things done simply because it was a warm sunny day. It had been cloudy, cold, and yucky for so long that finally having sunlight turned me into a superhuman productivity machine. No joke. I annihilated my to-do list. I even MADE a to-do list. Whaaaaat?!?!?!

Yet, here I am, once again feeling down and crummy. It sucks. I was supposed to take my car in for maintenance yesterday, but at 6:30 am I knew that wasn’t going to happen. So that’s rescheduled for tomorrow.

I wish I knew when it was ok to let myself be and when I need to buckle down. I wish I knew when my sadness was grief or a Synthroid imbalance. I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life and what goals I want for myself. I wish I knew so many things, and right now I don’t. I don’t have answers or drive or passion.

I have hurt. I have loneliness. I have anger.

Last night, Ox said my name during sexy time. My full name. Jennifer. Not, kitten, or Jen…

Jennifer.

Out of nowhere, I was filled with rage.

Irrational Right Brain: How dare you use my name!? Only mom called me Jennifer. You have no right to call me that!!!

It’s stupid things like that… things that deep down aren’t stupid, that hurt. But how do you explain to the rest of the world the achingly crushing feeling of loneliness of knowing you’ll never hear your name again from the one person you want more than anything to hear it from?

I’ve been having a lot of intense emotional reactions lately and I guess thinking about it in a detached way, that’s why I’ve been so tired and anti-people. I know all of this will eventually settle down. Mom’s fifth death day will come and go and eventually, I’ll make peace with it like I’ve had to do four other times already.

I’m pretty sure today is going to be another “cross-stitch with the cats” sort of day, and right now, I’m ok with that.

Daily Post 001: Hello World, Hello Self

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I feel like crap today. I have a headache that’s only now starting to go away. I don’t think I’m sick, though I’ve been congested the last few days… weeks really. It’s come and go. No covid symptoms, so at least there’s that.

It’s winter. It’s past the holiday season. I survived it. I had my cry session a few days ago where Ox held me while I cried into his shoulder about how much I miss mom and how I want her back.

I passed my first semester of nursing school. I did really well it in. I maintained a 4.0 until Thanksgiving break. I think my lowest class was an 85 or something. I don’t feel accomplished about it. I became suicidal twice during those four months. Academically it might have seemed like I was being successful, but internally I wasn’t.

I was able to switch back into the part-time program for the following semesters. Instead of graduating at the beginning of May, I will be graduating in December again; nearly two years later. That knowledge sucks, but it feels better than trying to make it through another four months of full-time work and full-time school.

I currently am not taking any classes for the next four months. No prerequisites. No “this class seems fun”. Nothing except work and trying to find myself again.

Maybe that’s what a lot of this comes down to. I’ve lost myself yet again. I allowed it to happen. I haven’t gone to the gym since the start of my program. Jon and I are having a talk on Sunday about if we want to renew the lease together because the living situation sort of sucks. Ox and I are doing well and I feel that has to do with having winter break from school and actually being able to spend time with him instead of studying 9 million hours a day.

I’ve started playing World of Warcraft again. It’s given me an outlet. It’s given me a community and tasks and focus on something other than the issues in my life. I know I’m using it as avoidance. I know I’m letting myself indulge in an addiction instead of doing laundry or being at the apartment or grocery shopping. There’s a part of me who cares about it; who thinks I should do something other than nothing. And yet, the injured part of me just wants to hide and not hurt.

I’m tired. Still. After nearly a month away from school, I’m still so tired of everything. I had wanted to grocery shop today while Ox was at work. Feeling like death vetoed that though and it sucks. I could have done all of this stuff yesterday, but I didn’t, and now it won’t get done and so I’m a slacker, a failure, and I hate these emotions. These thoughts.

They’re not true, but I have very little to show for myself other than a virtual game that means nothing.

I don’t even know if I can say I’m lost because being lost implies you had a direction you were going, a destination you were trying to reach.

I don’t want to graduate. I don’t want mom to be dead. I want her to be here. I want her to say “I love you”. “I’m proud of you.” “I believe in you.” Anything. I would give so much just to hear her say anything to me one more time. To have one more hug. One more hand squeeze. Anything. Anything to not feel so alone and pointless. Something to hold on to; to let me know it’s not pointless and it’s worth it to keep going day after day, year after year of this hurt and change and difference.

Financially things are going alright for once in my life. It’s nice to have that area fairly stable and not affecting things. Politically I think my government and a clusterfuck of a disastrous dumpster fire. I don’t waste much energy thinking about it or stressing over it. Working an essential job may factor into my mentality of not giving a fuck. Regardless of what happens, my patients are still going to require treatment. I’m still going to have to get up at 2 am on the days I work to set up the clinic. I can’t take time off work like other people to protest or be involved in movements. I voted and that’s all I have the capacity to do.

Work has been going alright. One of my patients died shortly after school started. It was extremely unexpected. I wrote a letter to him which I never posted. Maybe I will at some point. I guess it depends on if I actually post this writing. There was one other I started a while ago which I never finished. I haven’t wanted to write in so long. I haven’t had the time or energy. And even now, I don’t really know if it’s supposed to help with anything since I’m so out of touch with myself.

I guess I could start there. “Hello, Self. It’s been a very long time, hasn’t it? How are you?”

Not good.

Why, not good?

I don’t know. I really don’t know and figuring it out is going to hurt and make me cry and I don’t want to do it. I’ve been cancer-free for a year. This time last year I wasn’t able to lift a laundry basket because I had to trust a stranger to cut my throat open. I had a new scar that I had to get used to. I had a week with my dad where he came out and made sure I was ok. I had a sociology class I was taking as a way to get me out of the house and stay involved in society.

I had a birthday where mom wasn’t able to call me. I had a Christmas where I got a new computer chair and a new desk which I can’t set up because in four months I might be moving again, but I don’t know where yet. Still in Nebraska, but will I be able to afford a house? Do I have to stay in an apartment? Will it be in Lincoln, Hickman, or Beatrice? Am I going to have to pay a pet fee for the kittens? What’s Jon going to do? Is he going to think I abandoned him? Am I bitch of a sister?

There are all these things going on and all I want is for life to not be a fucking disaster.

I’ve made it this far. I’ve made it through five years without mom. I’ve made it a year past cancer. I can figure all of this out. I can. I know I can. I don’t want things to stay the way they are and instead of looking at everything all at once, I know I need to break it down into small things. Small tasks. One task. One chore. A small chore. A doable chore to prove to myself that one thing can get done. If one thing can get done then other things can get done, one small step at a time.

And so I’ve done my first step. I’ve written. I’ve said hello to myself for the first time in months. I’ve acknowledged that I’m not doing well along with some of the areas that need attention, mending, healing. I didn’t think the cancer thing was such a big deal, but I guess it is in the dark corners of my head.

I feel weak and tired and that’s ok. I’m allowed to feel those things. I’m allowed to feel hurt and sad and alone. I’m allowed to miss mom. Holidays are always hard. Winter is always hard. I will get through this hard, and while today maybe another day where I play a video game and merely eek by in life, eeking by, surviving, is the highest level of achievement. It means I can try again tomorrow to do “better” or “more”.

I’m at square one at the moment. Maybe not even there. Maybe it’s more of a “pre-square”. The square where you start brainstorming and making plans and getting organized. It’s a new year and there’s going to be a lot of change in the coming months. I’m allowed to start over. I’m allowed to throw out all of the plans and to-do lists that I’ve had in my notebooks and start a new one; one that’s relevant to what life is now, not what it was four months ago.

I guess that’s what this writing can be. It’s my start. It’s my “hello, world”. My return. To me. To life. To trying. To doing.

We’ll see what happens, I guess. I am glad I wrote. I feel more stable than I did at the beginning of it. I might still be laying face first on the ground, but at least it feels like there’s solid ground beneath me.

Letters to Mom 029: Worksheet 1 Reflection

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I’m writing to you again because I’m not going to have time to for the next few days. At least, not the type of time I would want to have, where I can sit, alone, uninterrupted or dictated by a time frame.

I can truly sit and write to you, now, in this moment, and so even though I’m still so raw over completing my worksheet, even though I want to quit and call today good, I’m writing to you instead.

Some of my answers bother me. I know I have strengths. Yet I said I don’t because I feel like I don’t. Answering, “learning I can survive your death sucks” also bothers me though with that one I don’t really know why…

I guess the biggest thing I took away from this first worksheet is clarity. I can articulate why your death is so hard for me now. It wasn’t simply because you died. It’s because my life changed and the biggest change is the lack of physical presence.

I guess that might seem obvious to others, but it wasn’t obvious to me. I had never had to explain it in quite that way before, and so the worksheet helped in that regard.

I also knew, for a while now, that my grief was more intense when I was tired and exhausted, but I didn’t know the why behind it. Sitting and diving into that aspect brought a deeper understanding of what I experience in those moments. You always had a special way of giving me a motivational boost when I felt like I had nothing left within me. You helped me power through, dig deep, not quit, not give in. I miss that. I miss your support and encouragement and positive reinforcement.

I feel, at least from this worksheet, that I need to work on emotional expression. Maybe that means I need to put more effort into writing since I know that’s an outlet that helps. Maybe I need to look into other methods of expression so I have more to employ other than writing. I don’t know, but I feel that is an area of extreme deficiency and one I would like to work on.

And yeah… the whole “Your death wasn’t the end of my world,”… I don’t know what to do with that. I’m not even sure what it is I feel when I read those words to myself. Guilt, maybe? Possibly even survivor’s guilt though I wasn’t the one who was sick and going through surgery after surgery.

I think that’s what I want to explore the most in my next counseling session, though “want” is a very relative term. It’s the section of the worksheet that stirs up the most confusion and dissonance within myself, so it’s the area that needs the most clarification. I don’t “want” to dig deep into emotions that suck, but the only way to get better is to do it, so I want to do it… Fucking emotional bullshit… -_-;

I work for the next three days. I won’t have a lot of time or energy to process through a lot of this any further than I have. LPN classes start in a week and a half. By the end of May, I’ll be a nurse. I got my very own stethoscope yesterday when I picked up the last of my books.

I think that would make you smile. Nurse Jen… Who would have thought that me, your child who passed out at the sight of blood, would be in nursing school…

I love you, mom. Thanks for listening to me.

Letters to Mom 028: Worksheet 1

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Hey mom,

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything… I started doing grief worksheets in counsling. I think they’re helping… I don’t know. I feel raw right now. I’ve realized I still have a lot to work on/through in regards to losing you. There are some mentalities that I need to address…

I wanted to post my first worksheet so you can see what I wrote. I love you. Forever and for always.


Understanding My Grief

1: I am having the hardest time adjusting to:

You not being here. Physically here. A presence, a person, I can sit across from. Someone I can introduce people to. You were more than your body, but without your body present, it’s not much different than talking about an imaginary friend. No one in my life will know you now. No one will understand what I lost when you died. If I talk about my spiritual connection with you then people think I’m crazy or unstable or having a “hard time letting go”. It sucks. I know you’re still here but I can’t talk about that with really anyone because no one can understand the connection I have with you so does it even really exist? Is it a coping mechanism inside my head that really means nothing? Is it real? Are you truly still here? I don’t have a way to prove it. There’s nothing quantitative that scientifically shows that I’m not alone; that you really are still a part of my life. It’s just me, alone, being my own cheerleader and telling myself the motivational things I want and need to hear to keep going and fighting and struggling and trying. It sucks. It sucks to feel ridiculed and judged and scared to talk about things that are important to me. You ARE important to me. You’re still a cornerstone of who I am and it feels like I can’t share that with anyone anymore. Our relationship isn’t physical, tangible, viewable anymore. It’s all hippy-dippy spiritual stuff with self-imposed importance. No one understands it, not even myself. It’s new and different and scary and I miss the way things used to be.

2: I feel most triggered when I:

Am tired. More than anything I miss you the most when I don’t get enough sleep. When I’m running on fumes and I feel like my world is going to crush me. That’s when I want to hear your voice the most. That’s when I want to call you and tell you how my day went and what my next days look like. That’s when I want your support the most. It’s not even that you would tell me how to fix my problems. You would just be there. You would listen to me. You would make me feel like everything is and will be ok and that I can handle all of the shit I put myself through. You would make me believe in myself no matter how much I wanted to give up. You always believed in me.

Aside from being tired, I am most triggered when I accomplish something. When I reach a goal or hit a new personal record. When I do something you would be proud of. I feel triggered then. Everyone thinks these things are good things and that I should be happy, and part of me is. But part of me is sad, too, and hurts, and no one understands why, or they think I shouldn’t feel that way because you would be happy for me. It makes me feel invalidated or that my emotions are wrong because other people dance around them or try to sweep them under the rug. I know they’re not easy emotions for other people to deal with, and part of that is a flaw, a shortcoming in society. But it sucks to feel like I have to hide my emotions all the time, or deal with them alone because I “shouldn’t” feel a certain way. I miss you. I still want you to be part of my life. I still want you to be part of my accomplishments and when you can’t be it hurts, deeply, and to feel like I am wrong for hurting sucks.

3: What happens when I feel triggered?

I cry, sometimes. Other times I lay in bed all day and skip out on the social obligations I’ve given myself. Everything takes more energy than it “should”. Doing dishes or laundry, replying to an email… All of those small, simple things that should be easy to complete feel like mountains that I don’t have the fortitude to climb because what’s the point when you’re dead? All of the trivial things in life feel so much more pointless because in the grand scheme of things they don’t matter. I hurt. I’m bleeding out through a wound no one can see. In those moments the only thing I care about is surviving, somehow, to the next day where I can maybe, hopefully, be better enough, recovered, enough to keep going and do more than I did the previous day.

When I’m extremely triggered I scream. Normally this is while I’m driving alone; where I”m safe from other people and their judgement and worry. I scream until my throat is raw and my voice is hoarse and I have nothing left in my body to give. I scream my rage and injustice and injury into the universe even though I know my anguish means nothing to it. Sometimes I hurt so much that I can’t keep it contained within my being. I HAVE to scream or I’ll suffocate under the burden that is your loss. I haven’t done that in a while. I don’t do it as much as I used to. But it still happens and I’ve learned to not deny those moments their time. They help me survive and if they help me survive then hopefully they’re not a bad thing.

4: Who and/or what is providing support during this time?

Ox provides the most support. He’s the one who listens to me. He’s the one who lets me read my writings out loud. He’s the one who holds me and lets me cry. He’s the one who lets me say “I feel alone” even as he’s holding me. I know it has to be hard for him. I can only imagine how it must feel for your significant other to say “I feel alone” when there’s literally no space between you. He lets me break down. He lets me be vulnerable and sad. He helps me take small steps on the days where I feel like I can’t get out of bed. We’ll do something connective, or he’ll simply let me stay in bed next to him. He has never once made me feel bad or weak for being injured and I appreciate that.

5: When I think about the one I lost I immediately feel:

Hurt. I don’t know if there are words to accurately describe what it is I feel, but hurt is the best term I can think of. My chest feels tight. My heart feels like it’s trying to shatter into thousands of pieces. I feel weak, and small, and vulnerable and broken. I feel like I’ll never be able to be the person I was before; carefree and whole. I feel like I’ll never be able to love the way I did before because I’m so aware of how things can change; how the one you love can suddenly no longer be there and the pain that loss can and will cause. I feel scared because I know I’ll experience grief again and I’m not sure how I’ll be able to handle it next time. I don’t know if it will be the situation that wins because I’m already so tired trying to understand and make peace with the grief I feel for you. I feel battle weary when I think of your death. I feel like I lost my companion and no one will ever be able to fill the spot you held in my life quiet the way you filled it.

6: I express my emotions by:

Not. Lawl… Seriously though, I tend to not express my emotions. I acknowledge that I don’t feel ok, but very rarely do I have a proper coping mechanism that lets me deal with those emotions. I sleep a lot. I stay away from people more. I wait until I feel better, but I don’t know of anything that actually helps to make me FEEL better. It’s like ripping open a healing wound. The only thing you can do is wait for it to heal up again. Nothing makes it heal faster. You just have to give it time and wait and hope it doesn’t get infected or worse.

7: I give myself permission to process what I am feeling by:

Being alone and not giving myself shit for it. By crying because for a while I used to get upset at myself for doing that. Screaming. Writing. Thinking. I give myself permission to feel unconditionally. My emotions are not wrong and they are valid regardless of what they are.

8: What strengths do I have from previous experiences that can help me during this time?

I don’t know. I don’t feel that I have strengths. I go day by day hoping that I make it through and that I do well and that I don’t fuck up. I have no plan for what I’m doing with my life. It’s mostly, “This seems like a good idea…” But is it really? I don’t have you to talk to. I don’t have your perspective. I don’t know how you handled Mawmaw and grandaddy dying. I don’t know how you got through it so I don’t know how I’m supposed to get through it. I’m trying so hard. I’m doing what I think is my best, but is it? Could I be doing better? Do you think I’m doing well? I don’t know what to do, mom. I really don’t and I’m sorry.

9: During this process, I have learned that:

I can survive the death of you. I wish I couldn’t. I wish that was the worst thing that could happen to me and that it would kill me and that it would all be over and we could be together again. But here I am, 4 and a half years later, still going, still accomplishing, still having people think that I’m strong and amazing and a mentor and a role model. I’m on anti-depressants because I can’t cope effectively with my life without them. I bury myself in pointless tasks because staying busy keeps me distracted from my grief rather than actually doing anything about it.

I’ve learned a lot of things about myself, about my grief, about other people, especially those in my life. But I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned; that your death wasn’t the end of my world, and for me that sucks.

Daily Post 220: Being Done

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Hey Chromebook,

I’m getting used to talking to you. I’m starting to enjoy it. I’m starting to find my new normal here at the apartment; my morning routine and flow. It’s a nice feeling.

Things are better and yet slightly worse at the same time.

The better…

I went to the gym again and had another pretty awesome workout. That was at 5am yesterday. I came back home afterward and rested for a couple of hours with the kittens before getting up and taking care of stuff. I went out and bought a bookcase from Walmart; the same one I have bought four times now. Maybe this time I’ll be able to hold onto it for a while and not have to donate it or get rid of it because of moving. I also bought my first phone card for StraightTalk. I still have to add it to my phone, but I have a few more days to get that done.

I went to GNC and bought more energy drinks for the week. They had the flavor I wanted so it’s been nice this morning, sipping on the flavor I’ve wanted for a while. I went to Verizon to try to take care of my last phone payment, but they’re still sort of shutdown with covid. You have to wait outside to be helped, so I opted not to do that yesterday. I also went to Michael’s to see about getting some new fabric, but they literally had no fabric which I thought was weird for a craft store.

Since that was a bust I went to PetSmart to get cat litter and a small bag of cat food. The kittens are almost a year old. They’ll no longer need to eat kitten food and the 16 pound bag I bought a while ago is almost out. I wanted to get something new for them to try since finding a flavor they’ll both like might be a bit of a task. With how they were sniffing and chewing on the bag when I brought it into the room, I think I made a good choice.

I went ahead and got gas for my car, so that task is taken care of. I then came back to the apartment and made three trips up the stairs to get everything into the apartment. That’s after already working out. I totally let myself feel like a bawce for getting everything inside on my own and not waiting for Ox to get off work.

I assembled the bookcase. Ox came over as I was finishing it up. He anchored it to the wall and we began putting my things away. He took apart my computer desk. We moved the entertainment system and my TV and Playstation into my room. I also got the replacement bed set up; that was Monday night. My room got painted Sunday, so everything in my personal space is coming together nicely. I like it so far. I still have some things to do; going through this, finding a home for that… but for the most part, it’s ok enough for me to feel good about being in here. I like it.

The not so good stuff…

Jon and I fought Monday night. Sunday he cooked dinner and asked me to do the dishes. I loaded the dishwasher, taking out some of my pots that he had put in it. I want my pots hand-washed and I told him that shortly after he moved up here. He didn’t have to wash them if he didn’t want to. He could leave them for me to do since I know I’m kind of being weird about how I want my stuff taken care of, but please don’t put them in the dishwasher.

I didn’t say anything to him Sunday night. I took my pots out of the dishwasher and put them back in the sink. I took care of all of the other things, set the dishwasher to run, then went to bed since it was 8 and I had to be awake at 2. Already past my bedtime. I could finish washing the bigger things tomorrow when I got home.

When I did get home, Jon was in a mood. I couldn’t tell what was wrong. He helped carry the box that my bed was in upstairs. He said we needed to talk. When I asked what we needed to talk about he said he didn’t know how to talk to me. That left me feeling defeated and I hadn’t been home five minutes yet. I figured it had to do with the dishes. How dare I don’t be perfect and have everything completely done.

Jon showered, leaving me to stew in my own head for a while. We ended up sitting on the balcony.

He said that coming home and seeing dishes in the sink made him feel like he didn’t matter. Three pots and some minor dishes that couldn’t fit in the dishwasher made him feel like I didn’t care.

I asked if he noticed that I had done anything at all? Did he not notice that I ran the dishwasher? That I had loaded it and that I had told him he didn’t need to worry about my pots since I want them to be hand washed if they’re used? He said he hadn’t inspected the sink before he went to bed, only that he had gone to sleep with dishes in the sink and woke up to the same situation.

It made me feel like nothing I do or did mattered. It wasn’t perfect so it wasn’t good enough.

When I asked if being here was better than Florida he said, no, it’s not.

That hurt. A lot. We kept fighting, neither of us listening to the other person anymore. My effort wasn’t good enough. Taking his dog out for him didn’t matter. Paying for all of the groceries didn’t mean I cared. Letting him use the paint and supplies I had bought didn’t mean anything…

It sucked. I sucked and was just as bad as his previous roommate even though I’ve been doing all of these things to prove that I’m not her.

The argument was a bit of a breaking point for me. If nothing I do proves anything, then fuck it. I moved all of my things out of the living room and into my room. I like it more this way. I, personally, feel more secure. I am surrounded by my things. Things I have spent money on or gifts I have kept over the years. These things matter to me enough to have them and I want to be near them and now I am.

Jon and I didn’t talk yesterday. We work together today for 8 hours. I’m concerned about it being a shitty work environment. Shortly after I woke up I sent Jon some messages.

Me: Are we ok enough to work together?

I still intend to take Queeni out before coming in. If you want the computer chair and the floor mat you can have them. I’m no longer going to have a computer desk in my room. If you don’t want them I’ll take care of them tomorrow so they’re no longer in the living space.

I was thinking of getting a small trash can / trash bag that sits on the cabinet doors like the towel racks so it’s easier to throw small things away while we’re cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. Would you be opposed to trying something like that?

We can still get the paint tonight if you’re still interested in having your room painted.

I don’t think it was fair for you to say being here isn’t better than Florida. If that’s your honest opinion there’s not much I can do to change that other than continue trying my best. I’m not Casandra. I’m me and I love you. I’m also human just like you are. Neither of us are perfect and nothing in life is ever going to be perfect, including the sink and dishes. That doesn’t mean either of us are invalid or that we don’t matter to each other.

I haven’t gotten a reply from him yet. I don’t think I will. I’ve made my peace though.

If three pots make him feel like I don’t care or love him, that’s his own internal issue that I can’t help or solve or fix. Every time I try to do something he lets his inner voice tear it down.

My goal is no longer to try to make him feel like he matters, which may sound harsh when read at face value to taken out of context. No one can “make” you feel something. I don’t “make” him feel valued or unvalued. He does. I will continue trying my best to do the things I say I’m going to do, but the purpose of that is to remain honest, dependable, and truthful, not to make him happy or feel loved.

Only he can allow himself to feel or not feel those things, and I have no control over that, just like he has no control over me allowing myself to feel like a failure and an awful sister because his opinion is that the living situation here is as bad or worse than where he was.

I am not a failure. I am not an awful sister and I’m not going to give him the power to make me feel that way.

So that’s where I’m at today. I’ve done a lot of things in regard to self-care and reflection. I’m done trying to make people feel a certain way because it’s a pointless, futile endeavor. Instead, I will continue to do the things I feel align with my core values and priorities and not hold myself accountable or responsible for how other people choose to react or not react to those actions.

I feel ok today. I feel like I’m closer to myself than I have been in a while. I’m hoping today at work doesn’t suck, and if it does, hopefully, I can have enough space tomorrow to let it go. I have another session at the gym at 5am on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a good feeling. Prioritizing myself feels good.

I feel Jon has a lot of work to do internally. He has issues with self-worth and that’s not something someone else can fix or help with. That’s his mentality, and so I’m done trying to do something I can’t do. All I can do is be me so that’s what I’m going to do.