January 18, 2007

Anatomy of a meltdown

I am genuinely touched and taken aback by the number of messages I have received through Colin and Jon. I am sorry I haven't responded to the messages I received directly and hope that this post will serve both as a response and allay concerns and fears. Iím sorry that I just checked out of life... everyone's life, for awhile. There's so much stuff going on in my life right now that I just needed to take some time for me, turn my focus inward to strengthen my inner-self, in order to refocus/ re-group and then move on. Much like pulling back during a fierce military battle that has been waged for far too long.

Right now I'm just at stage 1 of loss: experiencing the feelings of overwhelming grief, from simultaneous losses (one was an old friend and neighbor of 20 yrs), which overwhelmed me all at once. I have been here once before... after 9/11.

This time as things began accumulating recently: enduring my skin cancer treatment this past year, the beach rescue that turned badly in early fall, the leg injury after thanksgiving which then brought back my carpel tunnelÖ; well, they were compounded by the news that my momís cancer treatment is not going well and sheís going blind, and 2 very recent losses of good friends who will be dearly missed. It was multiple straws that broke my emotional back.

There's always stuff going on in my life that I never talk about because: a) I'm not a whiner... I know that most situations are simply temporary life hurdles to get through. I am a very reserved individual who processes things by thinking thoroughly, feeling deeply and working through things by writing stories, letters, posts and in my journals; b) Iím accepting of many things because I know, in the end, my faith will carry me through everything; c) Oftentimes, I just need to process my feelings quietly first, so I can then be level-headed in planning out my actions and executing solutions. That always entails quiet reflection, definitely some prayer time and writing, and on occasion tears, when loss is involved. Since my hands were hurting I couldn't write. My spirit was too low to speak to anyone on the phone, my body was in great pain from physical therapy and my injury, so I reached a breaking point by the time I received the news of my mom and the losses of good friends.

Colin is a caring, funny and sometimes an exasperating work colleague (if you remember some of his posts you know what I mean), who doesn't know the personal side of me yet, because we've only recently begun to hang out, so he didn't know what was going on. Thanks to those who emailed him and enlightened him on Michele. He shared those emails with me and they touched me deeply. It seems some people who have been reading since the beginning do understand me. They knew I was too over-whelmed to clue him in when he showed up at my door on Sunday. My grieving process is always handled in private and within the confines of my home.

In this instance, I was just tired of enduring so much pain and loss in my life in this past year, especially as I approached the 1st anniversary of my best friend's death. So yes, I took the opportunity, while my son was at a sleepover during that weekend (a true blessing) to allow myself a mini-meltdown. Normally, some people overwhelmed with grief drink, they yell at people, or take it out on others. Me, I just wait for the best moment I can deal with my feelings and then let myself feel all of the pain of my losses, because I have no time and no strength to carry excess baggage around with me. So I deal by feeling everything all at once when I'm able to. It allows me to bounce back and be there for my responsibilities and my son sooner than trying to suppress the hurt while living my daily life. Lying on the grave was a fetal position moment that just couldn't wait any longer. I just wanted and needed to be close to my friends and feel their loving embrace and re-assurance. By lying on the grave it was as close to them as I could come in a moment in which I greatly missed them, needed to talk to them and wanted desperately to get one of their awesome loving hugs. See, if Colin had known me, as my friends did, he would have known that I was wearing my waterproof hiking gear. They would have known that I just needed to cry my heart out dry and would have let me do so.

After 9/11, Hook instictively understood that on some level and published my letters in which I finally shared how a survivor of an attack felt and how one finds their way back to the light after loss. In doing so, he helped my healing process by giving my pain and thoughts a forum. By giving voice to my words in print he guided me to the wonderful power of healing through writing. Through his kind act I learned that I would eventually be okay. Now I know that with time, God and through my writing l will once again heal my wounds.

I don't know if any of this is making any sense, but that's what was going on. When I visit their graves in the summer I sometimes sit down and have a picnic or just lay down and talk to or pray with them. As C. S. Lewis once said, when he was seen doing the same at his wife's grave: "Their spirits may not be there, it many not do a thing for their souls, but it certainly makes me feel a heck of a whole lot better."

As time passes, and grief is processed I'll move on to stage 2: acceptance. In the meantime, I'll live in appreciation for the wonderful gifts of friendship and love I received while they were in my life, and though I will miss their presence terribly, Iíll have wonderful moments of bliss that I can recall.

I have not yet told my son of my neighbor/his surrogate grandfather's passing, he's currently dealing with the flu so I decided to wait, like the coward that I am. That's the only thing I'm not good at, is telling him about death. When his fishes died several years ago, some of you may recall how I told him they went on vacation to Florida to visit family. When we were planning for our Disney vacation this past August he insisted on visiting his fish to try and talk them into coming home. Sweet I know, but do you think I told the truth. I started to, but caved in at the sight of quivering lips. But this time I have no choice but to share the sad news and help him through his own grief. My neighbor was a wonderful caring grand-father figure that was teaching my son different languages, music and art. He was a sculptor and an artist. Recently I had been enjoying tea time with him in the afternoons. What I will miss the most is being able to share the little simple things that I used to come across and read and our discussions about art, literature and politics. I was so looking forward to our discussion on Heinlein and Rand this coming week and on Tocqueville the week after.

So there you have it. All of it. I have not yet lost my mind, though I'm sure a few people thought I did. Thanks to those of you who sent messages of support. Just know that you helped to ease my grieving process by being with me in spirit. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I donít know when Iíll write again. Just know during my quiet moments that Iím doing my best to heal. In the meantime, whatís come of all this is local bloggers extending themselves to me and inviting me to ďmeet-upĒ in the Summer. Thereís a Renaissance Festival in Troy, NY and Celtic Festival in CT where a few bloggers will get together. Which is nice, I have something fun to work towards and look forward to for when this dark cloud lifts and my leg heals. I did need something to gear my healing towards in the near future and an invitation to a dinner/dance in April helped enormously. Again, thank you all for your support, your kind thoughts and words have really helped during this time!

Posted by Michele at January 18, 2007 07:51 AM

Oh, my dear. I have little to offer accept my condolences on your losses and my sorrow for your pain. It has been a bit since I checked in on you and am terribly shaken by all this accumulated bad-ness. You know that we are both in the City, so, if taking you for a drink or something would be at all helpful one evening, please shoot me an email. I'm so sorry.

Posted by: rp at January 18, 2007 12:35 PM

Thank you for letting us know you are still there - because we do care.

And meltdowns are a part of life. And you're right, we all handle it differently. Just take care of you......

Posted by: Tammi at January 18, 2007 02:23 PM

I like that quote from Lewis.

Posted by: _Jon at January 18, 2007 06:20 PM

I'll continue to pray for your healing, Michele. Be well...

Posted by: Richmond at January 18, 2007 07:41 PM

I've been praying for you and thinking about you. Colin seemed to care deeply. I'm sorry for your loss, and will continue to keep you in my prayers.

Posted by: oddybobo at January 19, 2007 09:44 AM



Posted by: Harvey at January 19, 2007 11:16 AM


prayers and good thoughts headed your way

Posted by: vw bug at January 20, 2007 02:09 PM

I offer my condolences, hugs, and prayers. Thank you for your update...and it seems like your readers are a patient lot who'll wait however long is necessary.

Posted by: Mrs_Who at January 21, 2007 12:03 AM

Thank you for the link Michele, I hope you are on your feet (metaphorically speaking) soon.

Posted by: Sgt Hook at January 21, 2007 12:36 AM