I'm still crying 20 times a day, but it's down from 100, so that's something, and it doesn't last as long. When the tears come, they are sudden and shocking in their force, crashing down in a devastating tsunami of pain.
At first after my brother died suddenly, I didn't skip a beat. I kept to my regular work and exercise schedule. "We're Steel Magnolias", I told myself and anyone who'd listen, in reply to the inevitable "How are you- your mom- his wife, doing" questions. "We're like Scarlett O'Hara, we make a dress out of the curtains and we start again tomorrow". Southern Belles? Sure, but we're tough, too. We're survivors. We do what needs to be done.
And then my "I'm ok" costume started falling apart. The seams I thought were so carefully sown were only basted.
Its in these toughest of times that I'm most grateful for the emotional, mental and spiritual healing I've done and the coping strategies I've acquired. In a situation that once would be an excuse for a downward spiral of comforting myself the only way I knew how- and don't get me wrong, the idea of curling up with a bathtub- sized bowl of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy occurred to me more than once- I didn't. I ate for the only 2 reasons I eat now: to fuel my body in a way that supports my physical health or to fuel my soul as part of an experience or celebration. I also didn't obsessively control calories or exercise excessively, another facet of the Disordered Eating stone, and well- rehearsed coping strategies of my past.
But still, even though I wasn't falling back into obsolete self- destructive patterns, I had the Papa Roach song "Last Resort" on repeat in my mind (albeit without the suicidal component) Nothing is all right. Nothing is fine.
The first loose threads to appear were Emotional. I withdrew. I stopped posting and interacting on social media. I didn't return phone calls. I "watched" more TV in the space of a few weeks than I have in the last 6 years combined. Honestly, the TV was on, and I sat in front of it, but to say I watched would be a gross overstatement. I was crabby and snappy (my incredibly sweet husband insists I wasn't, but trust me).
Holes in my reasonably tightly woven Mental fabric appeared next. My usual almost freakishly organized state evaporated as I tried to do the schedule C's for my businesses. What normally takes me a couple of hours took me a couple of hours a day for several weeks. I couldn't organize my thoughts to write content for my business or for myself, spitting out bits and blurbs, never completing a piece- except for my brother's obituary.
Physical wellness unraveled quickly. My face broke out with all the zeal of a teenager. My TBD and Autoimmune symptoms flared, making every inch of skin feel bruised, my muscles cramp and ache, and my joints feel like there was gravel in them. A GI virus knocked me down for a few days.
Down, but not out. Bent, but not broken. Tattered, but not beyond repair.
When life is "normal", its easy to get into a routine and forget to practice what truly creates overall wellness. You meet work and home responsibilities, eat right (most of the time), exercise (hopefully). Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I had kind of been coasting along for a while. Functional, but frustrated with my levels of motivation and inspiration. Because I don't need them anymore to keep my eating and exercise habits intact, I'd been neglecting my spiritual practices of meditation and prayer, and my emotional and mental techniques like journaling, EFT and Focused Visualization. A busy day, and "I'll make time for it tomorrow" became my new norm quickly. (This is a "do as I say, not as I do" moment).
When everything seems to be falling apart, one thread holds it, and me, together.
Embracing Sprituality- both in respect to my understanding of a higher power, and in my connection to all other living things, past and present, was the first step I took towards healing and transforming my life. It allowed me the peace to keep seeking growth and gave me the strength to keep taking the necessary actions to move forward even when all I wanted to do was curl up into the fetal position. Its what I came back to this time, too.
But first, a meltdown. No, really, A full on, screaming at God, lip- sucking, chin- quivering, rocking like a child, sobbing, big- ass meltdown. Toddlers in the checkout line who aren't getting candy would be jealous.
And then I took a bath.
And started my prayers as I always do, thanking the Universe for all of the blessings and lessons I'd already received, and for all those to come, even the ones I didn't understand (at all) when they occurred.
I started meditating again. Admittedly, I fell asleep more than once, but who am I to deny my body what it says it needs? The meditation police did not come, and take away my meditation privileges just because I wasn't doing it "right". I found clarity and my Zen place in 3- minute kickboxing rounds, along with endorphin and adrenaline- fueled pain relief.
Finally, peace started to come. The world opened up again. New and exciting opportunities presented themselves, inviting me to get off my butt and take a step, even one, towards the future I want and deserve, honoring my brother in a way that he would love- by THRIVING and being the badass he thought - and so often told me- I am.
Yesterday, another kind of cathartic experience, in designing and getting a memorial tattoo for my brother. Pain relieving pain. It'll be pretty much healed by the time we have his celebration of life next week, not that it's in a place anyone is likely to see it unless I show it to them. But its enough for me to know it's there, with my dad's, as they always are with me.