I have been feeling antsy and off-kilter for the last few weeks. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out the reason behind this dark, swirling feeling. It just sort of prowled around the edges of my day, tinting everything a shade darker.
I started sleeping less – going to bed late, as I usually do but waking up eerily early, sweaty, heart racing and unable to get back to sleep. I’d lie there, listening to Olive breathe and I’d try to match the pace of her breaths. In and out. In and out. Until it was time to get up.
I started thinking I was in a rut, a funk. I cleaned out my house, donated clothing, organized my cupboards, wrote letters, rearranged furniture. I started thinking maybe I needed a new lipstick, a different coat. I felt unsettled and uncomfortable in my own skin. Itchy. Restless.
One morning last week I woke up early again, and I lay there and looked at the light coming in the window. It was cold and grey – the colour of light reflecting off snow. And that’s when I had a sort of …flashback. That light slammed me back to last year. Waking up after the sleeping pills wore off, wishing to god I could take another one. Staring at that light filtering through my bedroom window and dreading the day that lay ahead. Getting up to a silent, empty house. Making Olive breakfast. Shovelling the walk outside, while she cried at the window. Going through the motions but feeling dead and hollowed out and numb. Completely numb.
That’s what this cold dread has been about. I’m about to start retracing my steps. A year has passed and we’ve looped around and it’s mid-November and I’m about to come up behind those deep, stumbling footsteps I left behind last year. And I’m fucking terrified.
It feels like I should be over it. I feel like it’s old news. I wish I could show up like I have been up until now, and be funny and dry and clever and strong.
By all measures, I’m in a better place than I was. But it’s all happened so fast and so hard and so hurt that I sometimes feel like I have whiplash. Things chug along nicely, and I am happy, and I feel free. And then I see the leaves falling or the first snow or the light filtering in through my window and I feel this icy fear creep into my gut because I’m so scared of what the coming months will bring.
It’s so hard not to look back. It’s so hard to not kick yourself for not knowing. It’s so hard not to feel stupid, and betrayed, and angry all over again. I feel like I’ve come so far, but as these dates approach it feels like I’m being sucked in closer and closer.
I don’t want to be closer. I don’t want to remember or be reminded by the Christmas decorations or the snow or the silence when I wake up. I don’t want to have to go through it again, even with the comfort of a year and the sweet taste of my new life between us.
There’s no real solution. Every day I wake up and the calendar has ticked over another day, it’s ceaseless. Logically, I know that this year will be different. There’s no possible way it would be like last year. Not as bad, not as raw. I already know everything I was just learning at this time last year. I’ve absorbed it. I’ve adjusted to it. I’ve become grateful for it because it let me go.
But logic isn’t any match for this. So, I’m not quite sure what to do. I try to breathe, matching Olive’s breaths. I try to close my eyes against that cold, grey light. I get busy planning a winter that will be very different from last winter. Filled with warmth and laughter and love. I think about going to talk to someone. I research and research, but I don’t make the call.
When I drive I listen to terrible pop music. Anything with a beat loud enough to drown it out and lyrics mindless enough to silence it. I turn it up, and Olive dances, and it’s so bright and so loud that there’s no way it could be last year.
There are my top 5 shame jams. Play them only in the confines of your car. Turn up the volume, make eye contact with your grinning toddler, feel your heart beat and your breath slow. Remember that you’re here, not there. Do your best.
And, obviously this isn’t a shame jam, but it’s Adele. And she’s included on all of my music lists forever. So. Sing along, would you? Extra points for dramatic expressions and chest pounding during the breakaway notes (Olive loves that)
I remember feeling like that when it got the same time of year that I experienced some bereavements. It’s a horrible feeling (and made me paranoid I’d never enjoy Christmas again – my favourite season!). You’ll be ok, I wonder if the anticipation of it will be worse than the experience. It’s ok to feel weird about it.
You are a beautiful person for allowing yourself to be so honest in this public space because it helps us all. I’m always pleased we don’t live in the same country because I would feel compelled to try to casually bump into you and try to make friends (aka stalk you in an embarrassing fashion!).
Good luck, you have all the good will of your readers (hopefully most in a more normal way than this…) behind you xxx
Thank you so much, Jen. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave such a kind message.
My heart raced as I began reading.. I thought “Oh no! Not her too!” I have Graves Disease-hyperthyroidism and those are precisely the symptoms. Glad it’s not that. You are brave. Strong. So strong. You will get through this and it will get better. It always does. When you’re ready you will finally make the call to talk to someone. And when you do.. It will help free you. Help lighten the darkness and continue to move forward. Thanks for always sharing and demonstrating that vulnerability is not shame. It’s strength, wisdom, and bravery. “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” -Brene Brown
You are SO courageous.
That k you so much for your sweet words. And I love Brene Brown!
I experienced the same thing this fall as we hit our one-year anniversary of possibly the hardest time of my life. Last fall we had horrible health scares with our youngest son, my husband and I were both chronically sick and could barely function, and our finances plummeted due to all the health care costs. As the leaves started turning this year I feel more and more anxious and weepy and depressed because I kept reliving a year ago. I told everyone I was experiencing some type of PTSD.
I’m so sorry you’re going through this and my heart aches for you. It’s so painful and you want to fight it and say “I’m ok” but then you can’t and you find yourself just crying.
Awww I want to hug you! That sounds incredibly stressful! Are you through the worst of it now? Has that tight, anxious feeling passed? Hoping so 🙂
Yes it has passed, thank goodness!! I hope yours eases up sometime soon as well. It’s terrible to feel like that. 🙁
Great post that so adeptly captures that feeling of heartbreaking “firsts.” For me October is always a month of highs and lows because two of my kids were born then and it’s the month I lost my mom.
For some reason this post reminded me of an interview on “q” (CBC radio show) with Elizabeth Gilbert about the creative self. You might like it…I know I did…It gets good about 5 minutes in…I love her “Boarder Collie” analogy of the human brain…
Its got to be so challenging to have October be filled out its such highs and lows, I hope you got through it ok! Thank you for the interview, I really enjoyed it.
It’s a roller coaster for sure…but inspiration too…
So sorry to hear that you have been struggling. I think the feelings you are experiencing when you are circling a year on a traumatic experience are completely normal – things like change in season, smells, etc. all trigger flashbacks….big hugs:)
This is an amazing opportunity to be extra gentle with yourself and lavish yourself with self care, which it sounds like you’re trying to do… Some extra vitamin D would be good too to head off any effects of seasonal depression that may rear it ‘s head while you’re already down and vulnerable.
I think this is a great idea. I’m going to do this, and extend it to a friend of mine who is also reliving a traumatic time from last year. I find that doing things for others often does just as much, if not more for me.
And YES to the vitamin d! I was taking it last winter but I’ve dug it out and added it to the pill regime again. Thanks for the reminder!
Make the fucking call Madeleine. It’s going to be rough. Not as rough as last year, but still rough. Your beautiful family can only help you so much. Make the call. xx
Wise woman. It’s on the list for tomorrow.
Totes agree with the idea that the anticipation could be worse than what will be but just in case, keep a pulse on it (seems like you are) and know that even if you wanted to resume antidepressants just for this tough time- and by that I mean winter in Canada- it doesn’t mean it’s forever. Alternatively, I’ve gotten by in some rough but not apocalyptic patches with some serious/standardized/consistent daily 5htp + St. John’s Wort. It can take longer to kick in but the studies I’ve read seem to suggest it has an effect beyond placebo and I personally thought it helped significantly. That said, I’ve also started on that regime before and said, “f-that, this is bigger than herbs now” and that’s ok too. <3 <3
Ughhhhh winter in Canada! Good lord. I am going to do some research into 5htp, I’ve never heard of it! I upped some of my magnesium and it seems to have helped a bit. It’s sort of a juggling act, isn’t it?
[…] few weeks ago, a very smart man suggested that I sit with the unpleasant feelings I’ve been having lately. He suggested I accept them and anticipate them and use […]
Thank you for writing this…..I’ve posted before, because our timelines of our marriages ending (and the reasons why) are the same, and your words have helped me before. I too felt uneasy coming upon my own footprints this time of year, and tracing back over the things that happened, the things I decided, the way I felt. On the day of the actual one year since I ended my marriage, I felt a sense of relief: It was only when I got out of the shower that I remembered the day, even though I had been anticipating it all week. And that, right there, is the difference: much of the past year, the shower was the place of open sorrow, where I could cry without my children knowing, where I would come face to face with every single aching part of myself, drowning in the unbearable pain of shock, loss, grief, disgust, shame, and endless vulnerability….but it does end, or at least it becomes contained, and my showers are not haunted, they are a gentle reprieve before I start the day: days that are not marred by what happened, but instead are free of what was. There is too much loneliness, and far too much work of parenting on my own, and when I think about it, there is still pain of having been so deeply betrayed. But…I am okay, and I couldn’t ever have imagined that a year ago.
This is so well written and so, so true. We made it.
Thank you. And yes, we sure did. And we will make it much much further all in due time.