Whew… This will not be an easy post to write. Namely, I am tired (actually, exhausted), but I know this post will bring up a lot of emotions I’d like to think I’ve succesfully “gotten over” during the course of the the last year. But, in the hopes that sharing my experiences will help someone out there who may be going through similar challenges, I will share my story…
In late September 2012, we got the news that my uncle Dennis had passed away in Wichita of a heart attack. He had been in poor health for some time, and my dad and I (Uncle Dennis was my dad’s brother) had just seen him a week or two before when we were in town for a concert. My dad has had some issues with the rest of my uncle’s family, and we almost didn’t stop on our way out of town, but I told him we should and basically forced him to go. I’m so glad we did, because when he waved to us from the porch as we were leaving after a short chat, it was the last time we saw him alive. He was a generous, amazingly-talented person who helped everyone and anyone he met who was going through something or needed a hand up and, unfortunately, put himself last.
What was already a difficult time was compounded by what could only be considered a weekend of hell for his wake and funeral. Basically, our family, my uncle’s biological side of the family, was basically shunned or ignored throughout the whole process. People blamed people, no one from our side of the family were pall bearers (something I think was incredibly disrespectful and that my uncle would not have been happy about) or included in any aspect of the proceedings (instead, it was all my aunt’s side of the family – WTF? Seriously.), wills and desires and estates were a mess, and it was just a very difficult time for our whole family. In a sea full of people, our side of the family, our little group, felt pretty alone.
I was, obviously, very shaken with the news… He was the closest person I had ever lost besides my grandmother, and I had spent more time around him than most of the rest of the family on my dad’s side. I had dreams of taking him to Europe with me as he was always excited and proud of the fact that I traveled… I had been able to keep it together for most of the week (did I really have a choice not to?), although I felt like the wind had been taken out of my sails. I held up pretty well at the funeral until after I said goodbye to him for the last time and laid my hand on his chest. After I walked away from his casket, I completely lost it and starting sobbing and crying without control or the ability to stop for a while. My brother was close by and held me to his chest, and I am forever grateful that my family was there for each other – our own little group in a big sea of a mess. My other uncle and his kids and family were there, as well as some of our extended family from out of the state, and I think that was probably the only way we stayed sane throughout the whole ordeal.
Approximately a week after my uncle’s funeral, my brother and his girlfriend – the mother of my niece – came over to our house to tell us that they were basically splitting up and that she was moving out of their house. I had known they weren’t “good” for a while, but my parents were totally clueless to the whole thing until that day. A lot of nasty words and statements were thrown around, and pretty much everyone in the room was full of tears amid the yelling and chaos. I was so frustrated and angry and was just plain fucking pissed off (pardon my English). Our family has very little history of divorce or separation, and to have that room feel toxic for months after because of what was happening that afternoon made me physically and mentally ill.
Obviously, I thought they should try to work it out. Unfortunately, they were at two different places in their lives and, in hindsight, needed the separation to find themselves and get things out of their systems. I believe each person resented the other for a variety of reasons, and I was worried and scared and frightened that – with the way things were going and how upset everyone was – that I would never see my niece again. Looking back, it was probably unfounded to think that, but when emotions flare, we find ourselves questioning and worrying about everything. I know that if I never saw my niece again, it would be the last time I spoke with either of the parents; we’ve become very close and attached to her, and I couldn’t imagine not being able to hold her and talk to her and give her a hug. Luckily, as of the writing of this post, both parents are back together and have recently moved back in together in their own place, and I think the time of separation was good for them. It was a long struggle, but things happen for a reason.
As if all of this turmoil wasn’t enough, I was still going to college full-time and working (supposedly part-time). At work, we were converting over to a new billing system – a process I had been involved in for several months leading up to that, as well as a simultaneous conversion to our own cellular core so that we could handle our own cellular traffic instead of paying another company to do it for us. With everything going on at work, mid-terms for college, and pressure mounting all around me, as well as what I mentioned above, I was super-stressed out and was feeling physically and emotionally drained. I think I worked probably close to 45-60 hours on top of going to school full-time on the week of the cut, staying at work on the night of the cut until the early hours of the morning.
Unfortunately, due to all of these stressers and events that happened within about a month of each other that fall, I honestly believe that what I went through can only be described as depression, or some other mental trauma. I had never experienced anything so draining in my life, and I felt angry – a lot – and that the world made no sense and that people were just completely out of control (it turns out this is still true). I went through some days mechanically and at the end of the day couldn’t even remember what I had done, or at least in writing this today, I don’t remember remembering. Maybe it wasn’t depression, I really don’t know, but it was absolutely, without a doubt, the worst time of my life. My dad wasn’t the same after the loss of his brother (they were very close), and all of this happening around the holidays made it that much worse. It took many, many months to finally realize – in the case of my brother and his girlfriend – that they were adults and had to handle things the best way they saw fit, and it took a conversation with one of my best friends to realize that everyone has a path in life, and we don’t get to hand out approval or judgment when those paths don’t jive with our perfect little world.
For anyone going through this kind of “blah” time, where the world around you seems to be spinning out of control faster than you can keep up with it… Do I have any advice? I’d like to say “distract yourself with something else,” but that’s just not possible. Your mind is in overdrive… You’re thinking of every little detail, whether it be about the personal life struggles you and your family are going through or other commitments (in my case, work and school). You put yourself on the back burner because you’re too worried about everything and everyone but yourself. If we had access to a decent restaurant, I would have gorged myself everyday (oh, wait, I did); if we had a spa, I would have been broke with how often I would have needed to go. But, I didn’t have the time or the ability to concentrate on something else in the ways – healthy or not – that a person could use to take their mind off of what was going on. I was literally too busy to think about things and do something about it for me. And that is just not healthy. Looking back, I should have taken a day by myself, for myself, doing something I enjoy and literally getting the hell out of Dodge – I was too close to what was going on around me, and I needed an escape.
I thought seriously and hard about whether I should post any of the details of my personal life that I’ve mentioned above. I was worried that it would bring up emotions and thoughts for not only me but others mentioned, but I realized that I own these thoughts and feelings, and they are mine to share. I had to do what was therapeutic for me, and what might give me at least some semblance of closure. Hopefully, no one has to go through these things, but that’s not realistic – non of us are immune to “bad shit.” But, I do believe it’s important to not keep these emotions bottled up. It may seem shameful or difficult to share your feelings and struggles with others, but it’s only when you confide in friends that they can help you or try to help get you out of the muck. I am so appreciative of those friends who – even if it was just for a few moments – provided a sounding board or advice, or just plain got my mind off of what was going on.
After thinking about my own struggle – thinking it was small or insignificant in relation to others’ issues, I realized that it doesn’t have to be compared to other people’s problems. It was big to me, and that’s important to realize. Just because someone else has it worse than you doesn’t diminish the difficulties that you are going through; I think that’s crucial to realize. Guilt should not be added into your problems – you have the issue, and that’s OK. With that in mind, I’ve come to realize how blessed I am that even with these issues, I have friends, family and support to get me through it. If you’re going through this, don’t crowd people out – let them come in and let them help.