Happy(?) Thanksgiving

It wasn’t a noise that woke me but the absence of sound. I fell asleep listening to Natalie’s YouTube videos, at my desk. My arms wrapped around this imitation Noah, this plastic, and cloth creation that I somehow thought would mimic the son I lost. His butt is sitting on the desk as I leaned my head into his onesie, one I’ll never have to wash or worry about him outgrowing. My cheek touching his, imagining his breath, his heartbeat, his warmth, and wiggliness. Us, together as aunt Natalie sang us lullabies…

But somehow my subconscious was on alert, knowing the music stopped, that she was gone again, that I lost her again. I panicked and opened my eyes, searching the room for her.

I went to her Facebook page and realized that the dress she’s wearing on her cover photo was the one she wanted to be buried in. I felt this flash of fire in my belly. Lava spilled out of my eyes.

We couldn’t even do that for you. The god damn autopsy scars would’ve shown. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I clicked on her photos, trying to distract myself from the realization she wouldn’t be texting me about Thanksgiving plans or reservations or family time or anything. Ever again.

The still pictures, they provoke me, encourage my anger. How will I never see another goofy pose from her? Hear her laugh and snort over funny little things? Be party to another “get rich quick” scheme?

I scrolled through the messages from friends about how they all miss her and love her.

Damn you, Nat.

With all this anger and fury I think about deleting these pictures. Erasing her playlist. Boxing up gifts and remembrances from her.

I know I won’t though. Under all of this heated emotion, anger, helplessness, the real emotion that stays is heartbreak. As horribly overwhelming as it is, it’s what I have left. The pictures and the music, they stir up emotion, sure but I am grateful for them.

Happy Thanksgiving Nat. I am thankful for having you in my life as long as I did. I love you.

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Sorry For the Word Vomit…

I know it’s been awhile and I know I said I was going to stop apologizing when I missed a Wednesday or Sunday post, and I am… (yes, I do know it’s Thursday) I just don’t want anyone to think I forgot about them or this blog.

We moved three weeks ago. (A BIG, HUGE thanks to my friend John and Tetris!) I think by today, we could have the last of the boxes from the garage come inside and find their place, so that’s exciting.

That’s not entirely the reason I haven’t written though. It’s a big part of it… there is more though.

I did get offered the PCA job and yesterday finished with the paperwork and fingerprinting. I’m hopeful about starting training soon.

Babymaking is… getting a lot less fun. A lot more stress and I wonder if it’s the right thing to do anymore. I want to leave it up to God. I keep telling myself I am leaving it up to God but somehow, I keep managing to wrestle it away from him and stress over it some more.

September is right around the corner, which means many things. School is about to start. My fingers are crossed that Tayla will not struggle as she has in the past. At least, not in the same way. September 29th will be my grandma’s birthday and Noah’s due date. And the 11th, of course, is Natalie’s birthday. My eyes are stinging and my throat is closing up as I write.

I’ve been going through a lot of stuff, with the move. I have three jewelry boxes which I find pretty amusing since I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry but in one of the boxes with the bracelet she gave me for being her maid of honor. I remember shopping for her wedding dress with her… the one time she told me I was right (she should’ve gone with the ivory colored dress, the one that made her look like a princess).

The toast she made at my wedding as my maid of honor. The singing, the dancing, the hot tub. Somehow it reminded me of sneaking out on the golf course to go drinking. When she threw that party, had fliers made up and then had no idea how she got busted…

The times she took me along to some event with her friends, forcing me to have fun… ever the older sister in spirit…

And now, I feel so empty and hollow.

How can that be? I have a husband, a daughter, wonderful family and friends, yet the absence of this one particular person… makes me feel utterly alone.

I keep telling myself that once her birthday is over, it’ll get better… but after September, it will be my birthday and then after Halloween, it’ll be all about Christmas and I don’t know if I can handle that right now. I guess I don’t have to. I’ll try sticking to one day at a time.

But maybe not this day… it’s hard to reassure myself that things in my life will be okay when the world around us is in such utter chaos. I don’t have the energy to get into politics but I think we can all agree, we as a nation, are not where we’d like to be and the world right now is a scary place.

On that lovely note, I think I’ll take a nap and hope things look better when I open my eyes again.

Thanks for letting me ramble!

Peace.

Why We Need to Stop Comparing Addiction to Cancer

First, I think we need to acknowledge there is a difference between drug use and drug abuse. Some people can use substances recreationally, not everyone can. People are hardwired differently. I don’t know why some people don’t have an issue with having one glass of wine at dinner, while others struggle.

I’ve been noticing the growing argument for “addiction is not a disease” along with some form of an analogy about a kid with cancer. “That five-year-old didn’t ask for cancer”. Ok, I get it. I do.

And I think it’s a poor comparison.

Whichever side of the disease vs willpower side of the controversy you’re on, please know that addicts don’t choose to be addicts either. I understand no one “held a gun to a drug users head and made them inject drugs”. On the other hand, do you understand that when you’re cancer free, you don’t have to work every day to stay cancer free. You don’t have the temptations surrounding you or when the stress builds up or a family member dies and you need that relief, you don’t think “man, I could really use some cancer right now”.

I once heard someone say that if there was a cure for cancer half way around the world, nothing would stop that person from getting their treatment but if there was a pill that could cure depression sitting on the table across from someone who is depressed, they might not be able to get up off the couch to get it.

Depression is a chemical thing. Addiction is a chemical thing. How terrible is it that the affliction some people deal with destroys the mind to logic out? It doesn’t seem like a matter of willpower to me. It’s more believable to me that there’s a glitch in the brain.

Comparing addiction to cancer doesn’t make any sense. They are not the same thing.

It’d be a little easier to compare it with diabetes. Type two diabetes can be passed on genetically or a person can live a lifestyle that leads to diabetes. That person wasn’t asking to get sick. Sometimes it’s possible to make lifestyle changes that will help get blood sugars under control but that person has to be very aware of everything they put in their body.

I know firsthand what it’s like to have unmanaged blood sugars. I have made many changes and in turn, my sugars are lower and I am getting healthier. I also know how difficult it is to maintain those changes. Sometimes I just want handfuls of chocolate. Or cheesecake. Or pasta. Sometimes I indulge. A lot of times I don’t.

Addiction runs rampant in my family and I lost a sister to a lethal mix of rx drugs and heroin. Four days before she died, we had an intervention for her. She looked into our eyes and told us she was done. She wanted to be clean (and had recently celebrated 9 months of sobriety before this last relapse). She knew her lifestyle could kill her. She did it anyway. I don’t believe it was simply a matter of willpower. It’s not right to think that had someone stayed with her that night, everything would’ve been ok. She needed 24- hour supervision. Sometimes it’s not a “day at a time” it’s a minute or a second at a time. Do you think anyone in their “right” or healthy mind would conspire and lie to loved ones just to be able to essentially kill themselves?

Addiction at the very least is powerful, can we all agree on that? It’s killing people and it needs to stop.

Can we stop comparing it to cancer? Trying to claim there are no “victims of addiction”? I’ve never done heroin and it’s ruined my life. Because the bottom line is, blaming people doesn’t help anything.

Natalie’s On My Mind

I don’t know if she’s here because I’ve been thinking about her so much or I’ve been thinking so much about her that she’s here… It doesn’t matter I guess.

It probably has a lot to do with the writing I’ve been doing. The sister piece last week and dealing with her loss for another project due Friday…

I had a dream about her last night. I don’t think it was a visit. It didn’t feel like one. I saw her, I hugged her, I yelled at her for making us all worry ourselves sick. Turns out she’d been lost in an oil field for 14 months (???) I cried so hard with relief and then, Justin (my brother) went missing. Once I noticed Justin was gone, Natalie was gone again too.

When I woke up, I had that moment or two of not knowing what was going on and that fleeting feeling that she was still here. I actually told my brain to keep it down because if I was allowed to fully think out that thought, I’d know it wasn’t true and I couldn’t pretend. Ugh.

Last night we didn’t go anywhere to see fireworks. Tayla didn’t care that much and I’m not dealing with traffic and mosquitos for myself. Don was actually home, I don’t remember the last year the three of us were together. We were watching Spongebob when the noise got SO LOUD. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw flashes of light. I went out onto the deck and we basically had a front row seat. There was a line of trees but there was a dip in the middle, right where the fireworks were! They were beautiful. I even saw a few red hearts! I’ve never seen those before… and there were four. Not all at the same time but still…

Today we continued to pack. We did the front hall closet today which was filled with jackets and vests of Nat’s. Tayla and I tried them on and boxed them up. I can’t bear to part with them yet. Not even the ones that don’t fit either of us or neither of us would wear. There was a wave of sadness.

Onto my desk… I have a corkboard attached to my desk and a lot of pictures hanging up. I started to unpin them and put them in a photo album. Flipping through the pictures, there were more of Nat and me as little girls than I remembered… Another wave.

A song on the radio. An old card she’d sent. Memories. Wave after wave. I couldn’t get away from it. Even when we went to Don’s mom’s house. “Johnny Dangerously” was on TV. She loved that movie and we would quote it a lot.

God, I miss her so much.

I’m supposed to write about persisting and overcoming and I feel like a hypocrite whenever I start to write. I don’t feel like I’m overcoming this grief. I wonder every day if this will be the day and get swept up in the waves and carried away… I am persisting, I guess. I don’t feel very triumphant but I probably never will. Not when it comes to this grief. I’ll never overcome it or get over it… I’ll just have to continue living with it. Hopefully. it will lessen. I’m sure it won’t ever go away and I don’t really want it to.

“Grief can only live where love lived first”.

Oh Look, More Growth (gag)

Two steps out of Darlene Merchant’s office I thought:

“Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep coming here when I know it will rip me…”

“Because” I interrupted “you know it helps”.

I lost my argument and won, I guess.

I had another Accelerated Resolution Therapy session today.

It had been awhile but I remembered exactly where we’d left off.

Each of us experienced an individual loss of Natalie. I lost a sister, my parents lost a daughter, so many people lost a friend… I think all of us were so in shock, I don’t remember hugging anyone. Except for Enid, right when I walked in the door. In the ART session, I needed a family hug. I needed to honor the loss of a family member, not just a sister but our entire family dynamic was forever changed. There was now a huge hole in our five person family.

So today we processed what happened once we got to LaSalle Apartments. It was the most agonizing wait. I can already feel my chest tighten, just thinking about it. What a contrast… it was a gorgeous day, the building was bright, clean and classic.

I remember sitting and holding myself. Pacing. Wondering what the fuck was taking so looong.

It was a nice conference room, big enough to accommodate all 10 of us. Room to roam but every second spent not talking to anyone who knew what was going on… It felt like my skin was on fire. I was fully awake, alive and still burning in Hell.

Finally, the Medical Examiner came to speak to us. Asked about her medical history etc.

It was when the detectives took my parents up to see Natalie for the last time that I lost it. It’s when reality set in that I would never see her again. Not the way I remembered her.

How we’ve been doing the ART in my sessions, is I go through the scene in my mind a couple of times. I do some body scans, notice what I’m feeling. Sometimes I sit with it then try to move it, other times I just move on to the “director’s scene”. I knew I was ready to move on because the director tried to jump in at every chance.

Here’s what happened once I “re-wrote the scene”.

Jessica let me into the apartment. I started yelling at the M.E. and the cops to get out. Just GET OUT. Once they were gone, I laid down on the bed with her. I held her. I cried into her hair. I told her I was sorry. When I looked up, Justin was on the bed too. The three of us held hands. At this point, I know my brain was tired and overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do because I saw my parents near the bed but they were like holograms. They were flickering, like I wasn’t sure if they should be there or it should just be us siblings. I ran through a quick log of memories, of the three of us. At the cabin, on vacation, when Justin was just a little guy…

God, it hurts.

Then I was down in the conference room. The M.E. started to name “the name of the deceased is…”

I flew towards him.

“Stop! Just stop.” I clamped my hand over his mouth.

“Not today. Don’t do this today. We need just one more day.” I told him.

By now I was sobbing.

We did a body scan and at first, I saw myself trying to push this mountain of grief away. It wouldn’t budge. I heard Nat laughing.

“You won’t get it to go that way,” she said.

Clouds appeared and parted. Sun rays came down, spilling onto the pile of unimaginable sadness and melted it. It looked like lava but quickly cooled and turned into a river.

We ended, as we always do, going across the bridge. Towards grandma’s fountain.

I started with my hospital blanket (because of the rough texture) around my shoulders and I leaned over the bridge to feed some koi fish. It was peaceful.

When I was ready, I finished crossing the bridge, taking my seat in front of the fountain. I tipped my head back, indulging in the slight breeze that blew before the sun set and the multi-colored lights of the fountain came on.

I felt almost… content. There was still a sadness. Originally, my body had felt heavy. Tired. Weighed down. Now, I was still tired but not in the same way. I was exhausted from feeling and working. I felt sad, but like the first few layers of lead had been lifted.

I’m not really looking forward to going back next week but I know I will.

I know I will and it will help.

 

Deja Vu in the Twilight Zone

Friday morning we got our lease renewal form along with a notice from our rental company that our rent is increasing to nearly $1600.oo.

“Do you want to move?” Don asked me.

“To be honest, I haven’t loved the drive… to everywhere.”

“I don’t want to move” he said.

“Nobody WANTS to move, it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t want to sign a lease that locks us in for another 13 months only to get evicted two months down the road if we can’t afford it…”

“I guess we’re fuckin’ moving.”

So, I guess we’re fuckin’ moving’ guys.

I have to say, that while I’ve been visiting my doctors more frequently to “prepare my body for pregnancy” and with the year anniversary of losing Nat right around the corner… I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Moving in itself is a stressful, taxing experience. The hunt for a new place last year kept me up most nights. I don’t want to be in that rushed panic again, taking whatever we can find just so we have something.

Going through all of our stuff, again. Downsizing, again. Collecting boxes, recruiting people to help move, paying damage deposits, first month’s rent and last months rent.

Finding out if we need to change school districts, scrubbing this place down from top to bottom, admittedly that part shouldn’t be so bad.

Moving the cats! That was quite a production last year!

Not to mention baby fever. I couldn’t help it. I already bought a couple of unisex baby things… a preemie onesie that says “Hi, I’m new here” and a big bird baby bottle.

I scan everything that has a name on it and imagine trying it out on our new little one, adding a middle and last name of course. Wondering if it sounds cute now but will it suit an adult or will the kid hate us for being too “progressive” with the name?

I’d mentally turned the office/den area into a nursery.

Downloaded a pregnancy tracker.

Started working out (slowly).

My A1c dropped another 1.2% in three-four weeks since my last appointment.

Do I have the energy for this?

I’m thinking with all the medication I’ve gotten off in the past several months, lowering my glucose numbers and exercising, I will have more energy. I will have what I need.

Which brings us to the 19th.

I’ll be honest with you guys, the past few months? It’s been getting harder.

A year or so leading up to her death, I occasionally thought about what it would be like to lose Natalie.

I imagined I’d be devasted, of course… but this? I can’t believe that some days, I feel like I can’t go on without her.

There’s a video I have of her, sitting on her bed and playing her ukelele. She’s singing but the video is a side profile. Five and a half minutes I beg the recorded vision to turn her head and look at me. Please, let me see your beautiful face… Such long, pretty hair she had. Such a pure voice and expansive heart, ever growing with each new cause or request.

One of her big regrets in life was missing the baby shower for Tayla. She apologized again and again for not being there.

The night of the intervention, she took copies of Tayla’s 13-year pictures. I think we found them still in her purse.

I’m so angry and hurt and raw and overwhelmed.

I don’t know what to do.

Keep on, keeping on, I guess.

I’d wanted to blog about something coherent… something focused and useful but I guess what I need to let y’all know is that I’m in kind of a weird state of mind right now.

Here’s to waking up tomorrow in a better place!

(No) Doubt… Anymore!

via Daily Prompt: Doubt

I’m trying on the power of positivity!

This morning I was notified that it is my one year anniversary of this blog! I knew it was coming up, but not this fast… I was kind of…astounded. A whole year? Granted, this year has both flown by and drug on and on and on.

I’m posting under today’s word of the day, doubt because honestly? I doubted I’d stay with it this long. I’ve started several blogs, four, I think. I never posted more than once or twice before I either deleted my account or just abandoned it all together.

When I started WerdyNerdyNDirty, I had a vision of a simple extension of my somewhat offbeat, quirky personality and life. It was a good two months. Full of drive and deadlines (I’d given myself but still…) I found that instead of dreading my blog, I was more creative, less inhibited and basically “got over” my need for every word to be perfect. I used to be so caught up, thinking it had to come out organically inspirational or funny. There wasn’t room for editing. “Go big or go home” right? Not that there is anything wrong with going home, I was just tired of it. Tired of my rigid expectations…

It was mainly thanks to my writing teacher, Roxanne Sadovsky and our Friday morning groups that helped me to get over myself. Learn it’s ok to be raw, or even just be.

I couldn’t very well call myself a writer if I wasn’t writing. And I longed to write. I missed it. I’ve had a lot of fun writing for you and I know that I’ll be able to get better, the more I do it and it’ll be fun to look back in a few years to see how I’ve developed as a writer. I’m sure there’ll be quite a difference.

I been writing for this blog for a month and a half when I lost Noah. Blogging help me through it. As painful as it was to share and process, I’m sure it was an integral part of my process. A month and a half after that, we lost my sister Natalie.

Typing that last sentence still brings the sting of the tears. It’s so fitting that she LOVED the movie Alice in Wonderland (she even got married on the date printed on the Mad Hatters hat, 10/6!) because I feel like I’ve been free falling down the rabbit hole since May 19th. Prior to her death, the most devastating loss had been my grandma on Christmas Eve, 2009. Oh my God, I didn’t think I’d ever get over that. It took me years before I stopped having that dream where she was just on vacation. It was all a mistake. She was going to be so upset when she came home to find it had been sold while she was away…

I don’t really want to compare the two losses, there’s not really even a way. I never expected to lose my sister. My little sister. The light and the joy of so many people’s lives. Even knowing she’d relapsed, being the one telling her she was going to die if she didn’t cut it out… there was no way to prepare. A lot of days, it still feels like a brand new shock. Realizing it’s coming up on a year, it feels like a brand new level of Hell. Time is passing, life is going on, for others but somehow…I’m stuck. It’s still so fresh. People tell me “it gets better”, some tell me “it never gets easier” or “you’ll find a new normal”… I sure as shit hope “this” isn’t the new normal.

At least I think people have stopped telling me, for the most part, that “she’s in any pain. She’s in a better place” etc because hopefully they realized by telling me this, it made me think “I don’t want to be in pain. I want to be in a better place. I want to join her.” And then a timely quote literally fell into my lap. I dropped my phone and when I picked it up, it said “suicide doesn’t end the pain, it just gives it to someone else”. I don’t wish this kind of pain on anyone. So I write. And I cry. And I listen to her music. I try to take one day at a time, careful not to sleep through too many in a row and miss out on all the beauty that still surrounds us.

Wow, as we say in our family “that took a turn”. Meant to write about self-doubt and creativity… I guess this all applies. It’s given me purpose and direction. I hear that it helps other people too which is just icing on the cake. I hear Cheryl Strayed talk about how her mother’s death, as horrible as it was to lose her, made her a better person. As much as I don’t want to be a better person because of Natalie’s death, it would be much worse to stay the same.

I want to be an advocate and help others, I’m not sure I can do that just yet or what it will look like when I do get involved but I’ll keep y’all in the loop, no doubt about it.