POS-FFOS Survivor Retreat Columbia, TN October 2008
About: Recovery or Reconstruction?
My wife, Rebecca, has been gone from this life for over 16 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 not possible, really. The only good alternative was to sort thru what was left and reconstruct my 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 those not so much. 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. There are some of those stunning first moments etched into my memory.
At first, though ill-prepared, I was ready to go to war at the least provocation. I was unable to separate the important things from the trivial ones. Everything fell into one category labeled “un-important.” Bills did not get paid, the insurance canceled, the car was 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 just 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 a huge 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 begin 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 result in 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 (which can include you.) "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 been seeing in the months prior to her departure. I had a really bad 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 had the need to know exactly what had gone wrong here. I still recall a confrontation at one of my first SOS sessions. A participant, Paul A., says to me “Doug, you are never going to know.” Well, needless to say, that did not set well with me. I am so glad I stuck it out with Paul all these years . . . this was just one of many things he was correct about.
I began (it did not happen instantly) to relinquish the search by maybe the 3rd or 4th year down this path. The during an SOS session, someone shared a story. 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 point in time and it will eventually fill slightly above the cup’s lip. It is though every drop wanted to stay together with the rest of drops that proceeded. Finally, a drop is added 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 culprit. 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, I finally conceded. There were clearly millions of drops collected in Rebecca’s cup before it finally overflowed.
Not ever knowing or understanding is a difficult pill to swallow - but is absolutely correct, 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 just 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 complex human thinking and behavior is. We are all so unique and it is just so complicated. Any explanation is full of all manner of assumptions – who can understand it?
Reconstructing my LIFE could be looked at as the reverse of “The Cup” story. My reconstruction cup currently retains many, many help drops from caring friends, books, seminars and interactions with other survivors. My cup has not run over yet- but it is comfortably filling. I certainly believe there are many drops that have been added to certain people’s lives I have encountered. There are so many it is impossible for anyone to prioritize them or follow the cascading sequence to them. I am just 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. I don’t think they exist . . . anywhere. Continue to control your intake intervals (in other words, don’t expect too much too soon.) Don’t instantly filter out everything like I did. That will keep you stuck. It is necessary to consider things that maybe outside your comfort system. Just don’t go running headlong down some unfamiliar tangent path, however. So many of these forms of relief or short-lived. This will leave you doing a lot of backtracking . . . to get back to the main path. Don’t ignore everything your friends are saying. Sure . . . they do not understand, but neither did you. 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 now know and believe.
So Keep On, Keeping On – About RecoveryOrReconstruction-V04-06224.2017