Post Traumatic Stressing Out

I hesitate to even type this, but everything is going relatively ok right now. I don’t want to spook up anything crazy, but for now it’s almost normalish (global pandemic and quarantine not withstanding, isn’t it amazing how world chaos can still feel normal?)

Yesterday my anxiety hit a fever pitch. I was shaking out of my skin. I tried to go down my list of things to do when it hits me and nothing worked.

I got the best news I could possibly get the day before. A loved one is cancer free. I still cannot believe it, but I’m so happy.

I got to see my grandparents and my parents and have a day of normalcy in the middle of coronamania.

Q is riding her bike with no training wheels. She got to play on my mom’s boat. Get dirty. Be a kid.

But in my life, every time things are going really good something comes along and crushes it. Yesterday I couldn’t shake that feeling that something bad was going to happen.

My child was happily climbing on rocks and pretending to be a cat with her friend by the water. She swims like a fish, but all I could think about was a busted head and drowning. I couldn’t even enjoy it.

Matt used to say, post cancer diagnosis, that the worst had already happened. Nothing else could touch us because we were already facing the absolute worst thing. He had such an outlook on cancer and life and what was coming and he never let it stress him like I did. My worst nightmare was losing him. I live in that nightmare daily. I still wake up and, for a second, forget that he’s gone. I still reach for him in bed. I still think I hear him coming in from work. I still walk into the garage and expect to see him standing at his work bench building a gun and humming happily because it was his favorite thing to do until his fingers got so bad from neuropathy that’s he just couldn’t. When it hits me all over again that he’s gone, I have to force myself to get up and live. Some days are ok.

Most days are hell on earth.

Yesterday was seemingly perfect on the outside, but inside I was dying.

I didn’t even acknowledge that I had PTSD until my therapist looked me in the face after hearing me talk and said “That is PTSD. Every word you just said”. Somehow I thought I was above that. I thought if I could power through the days that it would make what is, not. I thought that by not admitting it it would mean I was doing ok.

Well I can’t. I’m suffering from constant fear and anxiety and I hate it.

I want to be the mom who sees her kid having fun and doing regular kid stuff but if I lose her, get me to the nearest padded room. She’s all I have left in this world and I won’t survive that.

My mom told me after Matt died that I couldn’t stop Quinn from being a kid. She told me that I still had to let her spend the night with friends, family, have fun, and not just keep her at home all the time just to make myself feel more safe. Mama’s are full of advice you need to hear but don’t want to hear. Mama’s are always right.

A huge part of grief is distraction. Distraction and staying busy works for a while, but eventually you have to be alone with your thoughts and you have to face the monster. I understand why people numb the pain of grief with alcohol. It’s effective short term, and you really just grasp at any and every straw fo feel good when you feel so bad. I understand why people throw themselves into another relationship shortly after losing a spouse. Replacing the bad feelings with good. But when that goes south, you are forced to reevaluate.

I am blessed. I’m covered. I have the best friends and family anyone could ask for. I surround myself with good people and they know when I’m hitting the grief wall, or rather, when it’s hitting me. They sit with me in that feeling. Sometimes it passes quickly, sometimes it lingers. It’s important to have people who can sit with you in the lowest times and just be there for you. My friends can make me feel better without saying a word.

Matt wasn’t scared of anything. He was an urban explorer when he lived in England and a very talented photographer. Breaking into abandoned places to take pictures of the ruins was one of his favorite things to do and he had a group of people he loved to do it with. Yesterday one of his UrbX friends messaged me and sent me pictures I hadn’t seen before. I love seeing those, because it’s a glimpse into his life before us. This one had me rolling laughing. I can almost hear the picture. They captioned it “It’s a boy!”

He was always up for the next big adventure. He never let the fear of dying slow him down. This was even true towards the end of his life. All he could talk about was heaven and how beautiful it was going to be and who he would see there. I know that he’s at peace. I have begged God for peace for myself. But some days that turns into “God, I’m tired. Take me now. I’m ready to see him”. Survivors guilt is also very real unfortunately. I don’t understand why him and not me. I bargained with God a lot when he was sick. The worst thing in the world to me is for a little girl to lose her Daddy. I told God that I would gladly take his place so she would have him to grow up with. Their bond was unbreakable.

He fought so hard to live. He never gave up. Every single time I think that I can’t do this, or that I just want to crawl in a hole and never come out or move in with my parents so I don’t have to adult, I think about how hard he fought to be here for us. And I pick myself up and force myself to rejoin the living. It would be so easy to let the waves of grief take me down and leave me there. No one would fault me for that. But he would be so mad at me if I squandered my life away when his was cut short. More than anything, he wanted us to be happy and move on.

The waves of grief are hitting me hard. Just before I can catch my breath another one hits. I can almost hear him telling me to get back up and fight. So every day I do.

The longer he’s gone, the more we hurt. We find good in every day, and we survive knowing that every day on earth is one day closer to him in Heaven. But the pain and anxiety may never go away. Losing your whole world changes you forever.

I wish I could just go back in time for one day to have not a care or worry in the world. One more day of family fun with him. One more laughing until we cry over something stupid. One more dancing in the kitchen. One more “Daddy’s home!” coming through the kitchen door. One more pajama ice cream trip. One more big Matt hug. One more looking over at him in church and seeing his hands up in the air praising God when he had every reason in the world to turn away from God. One more time hearing him say how he couldn’t wait to be old and wrinkly with me. One more day with the love of my whole life.

I don’t know what our future brings. I don’t know if life will ever be back to normal. What I do know is that PTSD is not only real for grieving widows, it’s all consuming. Keeping my head above water is a group effort at times. So I’m just over here waiting on the waves to calm down so I can breathe again.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. – Psalms 18:2

1 comment

  1. Hi! i’m your friend. ” So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord! Psalm 31:24


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