Back in the middle of things

I’ve started and discarded three or four different blog posts in the past few days, unable to put my arms around what it’s been like for me, this past week. I know my experience is not unique, because I’ve talked to other suicide survivors and many of the things I am feeling appear to be universal. Yet, how to describe them?

Robin Williams’ death has put me in a very strange place. I know, logically, that I am here in Washington; it has been nearly 20 months since Tony died; I have come a long way since then. I know these things. They are true. Yet at the same time I am aware that I am here, in my apartment, I have also been there. That night.

I never really understood until I lost Tony what post-traumatic stress was. I had read descriptions, of course, and seen depictions on film. I knew that people described it as being back in the middle of the traumatic event itself. I somehow, though, thought that it was more like a nightmare than a reality. That PTSD was akin to a bad dream.

It’s not. It’s worse. When I heard the news about Robin Williams I was transported, with no chance to kick and scream my way out of it, back to that December evening. I’m not talking about a memory. I mean that it felt like I was there. I could feel – actually feel – the cold concrete steps beneath me. I could hear the glass in our bedroom window breaking. I could smell the air. I could see one police officer in front of me, my friend next to me. I could see the other police officer, the one who’d broken into the apartment, crouching next to me. I could hear those six horrible words that changed everything. I could hear the howl that came out of me, feel my friend’s hand clutching mine.

Over and over this week, I have revisited that day. I wish I could stop. I can sometimes pull myself out of it, a bit, by pressing my hands against my chest and reminding myself that I am not there. I feel like an open wound. Part of me is relieved that people are talking about mental illness and suicide in a way that seems to be… maybe… a little different. Part of me is devastated because there is still so much ignorance and judgment. I’ve been in a few conversations, in blog comments or Facebook status updates, that have just cracked me open. One was with a woman who insisted that suicide is a sin, and that people who die that way will be judged. She seemed pretty happy to judge them herself, all in the name of religion, of course. I wonder whether it’s actually healthy for me to talk to people like that, but then I think, if I don’t, who will? I don’t think I changed her mind, but at the same time when I come across ignorance like that, how can I stay silent?

I was hoping I would feel better this week, or at least MORE better than I do. I am still raw and hurting. I feel like I’ve been scraped all over, flayed open. I ache. Right after Tony died, I was in a fog. Here and now, the fog has dissipated and it can’t protect me. I have only the harsh glare of reality.


10 thoughts on “Back in the middle of things

  1. I am so, so sorry, Aimee. I don’t pretend to grasp the pain, but I can totally believe that this would do to you what you described. I wish it had not. I wish that you had not been subjected to the massive amounts of ignorant, self-righteous, or just plain mean comments. I cannot say I understand, because I don’t, but my heart hurts for you, and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

  2. Tons of love and hugs from me. Don’t forget that in the harsh glare of reality alongside all the hurt and pain, which I can only begin to imagine, you will also be able to see your family and friends and how much you are loved and cared for. You are a wonderful, inspirational woman. XOXO

  3. The forward-and-back-again hopscotch of grief recovery is a bitch. When you’re in the thick of it, like now, remember that a hop ahead will come again. I promise. And there will be those hops back for a long time, but they’re already further apart than they used to be, and they will grow even further spaced as you go on. You’re doing good, hard work, lady. Much love.

  4. I cannot begin to imagine how painful this has been for you. My heart goes out to you

    I can relate being thrown ‘back in the middle of things’. When I had the shock of my husband meaning our 37 year marriage, in the beginning I coped in a zombie-like trance way, and moved from that point to the ‘enjoying each moment of life as it comes’ facade. I realize now that I was distracting myself and numbing out.
    It was only sometime later (eighteen months to be precise) that I allowed myself to truly feel the pain of it all (without the protection of the ‘fog’, as you describe it). It has been a long slow hard healing process from that point. I now feel I am beginning to recover. It is nearly three years since it all happened

    The reason why I am saying this is because many people, including me, have implied that I should be ‘over it’ by now. Fighting against that ‘I should be over it’ makes the going harder. When I stopped fighting and allowed myself to fall down, is when I began to stand up.

    Take care.

    • Thank you, Elizabeth. I have been fortunate that nobody has said to me that I should be over it — which is a good thing, because I have truly grown to dislike that word. My therapist calls it “the tyranny of the shoulds” and I agree with her. There’s something very judge-y about it. I think that leaning into the pain is the only way to heal. It needs to be felt. Thank you for writing — and you take care, too.

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