A Wife, A Brother and a Son and we're nearing the two decade marker:
About Recovery or New Construction:
My wife, Rebecca, has been gone from this life for over 19 years. So, I have had a lot of time to deal with all the emotional debris left behind. I would learn over the first year, or so that recovery was unrealistic. The only good alternative was to sort thru what was left and reconstruct a new me. There was little motivation in those early years. Just getting on to the next day was a struggle.
Since she departed, there have been highs along with the lows. The more time passes, the more I wonder how I made it this far. Those first years are, now, pretty much a blur. Much of the embedded trauma has faded. But, those first stunning moments remain etched in my memory.
Although ill-prepared, I was ready to go to war at the least provocation from day one. I was unable to separate the essential things from the trivial ones. Everything fell into one category for me, labeled “unimportant.” Bills did not get paid; the insurance canceled, and the car never washed. The windshield would turn into a pasted disaster when the rain began to fall. I would lash out (in my mind) while pretending to be okay. I did not want to entertain any further questions. I was angry and did not think I should be, so the results lead to a constant masquerade. I would make up so much, goodness; I no longer knew who I was. There is tremendous stress associated with pretending. In the process, you distort your character and can no longer be yourself.
Anger did not appear instantly; it was a gradual migration beginning with frustration. There were so many things that could never be known, yet I felt obligated to explain things over and over. Frustration boiled over.
Anger is a behavior that often lurks out of sight, and it can flare up instantly. While frustration comes to all of us in one way or other, some are better able to control it on the fly. Frustration often erupts in caustic outbursts, backlashes and can lead to acts of revenge. If you shift into revenge mode, you are out of control.
All of this can eat away at your soul and will lead to isolation and on to abandonment. "That’s the way Love goes," to swipe a lyric from a Merle Haggard song. If you let anger take root in your heart, you will set up an impenetrable barrier in your mind. This barrier will be hard to dismantle since no one can reason with you in that state.
For me, I received plenty of suggestions from peers and professionals. I would politely nod and plow ahead ignoring everyone’s help. I even went back to the Ph.D. counselor Rebecca, and I had seen in the months before her departure. I had a nasty attitude. I was probably thinking . . . This guy had no idea what he was doing; after all, Rebecca had taken her life.
Today, I think differently. The counselor knew well what he was trying to do. Sure, maybe there was a better way, or was it the rejection factor was set too high? Just something else you can never know.
From all the turmoil I developed this attitude of thinking this life is an evil trip, and I don’t want to be jerked around . . . Anymore. I stayed on this constant hunt for several years. I needed to know precisely what had gone wrong here.
I still recall being confronted with truth at one of my first SOS sessions. A participant, Paul, says to me “Doug, you are never going to know.” Well, that did not go well with me. I am so glad I stuck it out with Paul all these years. This was just one of many things where Paul was correct.
I began (it did not happen instantly) to relinquish the search for why by maybe the 3rd or 4th year down this path. Then during an SOS session, someone shared an analogy. The title was “The Cup.”
The story went something like this. If you take a cup (of any size) and begin to fill it one drop at a time . . . Well. . . At a point in time and it will eventually fill slightly above the cup’s lip, as though every drop wanted to stay together with those preceding. Finally, there is that last drop that will cause the cup to overflow. The resulting dilemma is . . . was it the last drop or which one of the earlier drops was the cause.
You are forced, in time, to admit “I don’t have any way of knowing the answer to this question. And so it is with suicide . . . And . . . I finally conceded. There were millions of drops collected in Rebecca’s cup before it eventually overflowed.
Not ever knowing or understanding is a difficult pill to swallow - but is the reality, or so I see it, now.
Even with all the adjustments in thinking I have made, there is still this propensity to search for “cause.” I have different expectations now. Rebecca’s suicide along with numerous other situations (including two other suicides) has helped me in time to realize how incredibly jumbled human thinking and behavior is. We are all unique and human nature is complicated, and impossible to predict. Any explanation is full of all manner of assumptions – who can understand it?
Constructing my new LIFE could be looked at as the reverse of “The Cup” story. My cup currently retains many, many drops of help added by caring friends, books, seminars and interactions with other survivors. My cup has not yet run over - but it is comfortably filling. I believe I have added many drops added to other people’s lives I have encountered. These drops vary so widely it is impossible for anyone to prioritize them or follow their cascading effect. I am so thankful that my cup has filled enough to find PEACE in this field of trauma.
I encourage each of you to keep searching and get help where you can find it. Don’t expect instant miracles, because those don’t exist. Continue to control your expectations (in other words, don’t expect too much too soon.) Don’t instantly filter and discard everything as I did. That will keep you stuck.
It is necessary to consider things that may be outside your comfort system. Don’t go running headlong down some tangent path, either. So many of these forms of relief or short-lived and will lead to backtracking. You need to find your proven comfort zone.
Don’t ignore everything your friends are saying. They do not understand, but neither do you at first. Be thankful for their attempts to help. There is something to be learned in both directions . . . So look for the benefit, not the flaw. After all these years of trying . . . I can only assemble fragments of what I have learned and now believe.
Give yourself time and learn to trust your instincts because in time that will lead you to PEACE. Adopting some else's opinion will leave you searching.
FHAS–About Recovery or New Construction V07-GP-0406.2018