Tag Archives: grief

I Cry Sometimes (TW: self harm)

9 Aug

“It’s been a long time since you cried after.”

It really has.

I cry a lot. Movies and books make me cry. Songs. Commercials. My cats. Pictures of really cute animals. Bad things too: feelings of guilt about events five, ten, twenty years in the past. Physical pain. Fear. Loneliness. Impotent rage. Feeling trapped. Being yelled at. Exhaustion. I have cried in the parking lot of more than one job, trying to make myself get out of the car.

I also don’t cry a lot. Like I want to cry, but I can’t, because something in my brain has stopped me, so instead I get that tension in my temples that means I’m going to cry, wrinkle up my face as though I were crying, sometimes in an attempt to force something out, sob once (dry, like when you’ve thrown up everything in your stomach but your gag reflex doesn’t know that), and maybe one tear trickles out of each eye. Very disappointing. The tension never goes away. It’s like having to sneeze but never doing it, or being like two centimeters from an orgasm that you never get to have.  The relief and release and validation of actual tears never happens and I just wind up feeling silly and having a headache.

That’s happened a lot more over the last few years. Sometimes I was just too damn tired to cry, I think. A friend of mine used to joke that I only have two speeds: 80 MPH, and couch coma. I don’t know how to moderate very well, I have a tendency to overcorrect one way or another, and then next thing I know I’ve been going at 80 MPH for a thousand miles, I’m almost out of gas, and the nearest gas station is over the state line, and I have to shut off the AC and the radio and pray the fumes will get me where I’m going.

That metaphor got a little stretched, I admit, but assume that I have a tendency to get into situations where “the nearest gas station” is the next time I can stop moving without feeling like I’m going to lose literally everything, and “the AC and the radio” are anything other than the very, very, very basic staples of life*. Like a lot of people, I try to self-medicate away my depression (and, ya know, poverty) with Busy, with projects and jobs and gigs, with the feeling I have worth because I have something important going on. Meanwhile my anxiety is losing its SHIT, my body is suffering, and the only sane guy in the Central Command Zone of my brain throws up his hands and starts to shut down the non-crucial systems like “be nice to mr. biscuit,” “wash your face,” “do anything but sleep when you get home,” “make decisions,” or “cry when sad,” because there’s no energy for anything except “show up for work” and “don’t crash car” and “continue to breathe.”

I spent a lot of my life pushing myself to the point of exhaustion because I firmly believed myself to be a Lazy Bitch, and for a long I was ok with being exhausted. I was wasting all my potential anyway, so I should at least suffer for it. Then at some point (my sophomore year of college) I began to fantasize about hurting myself so I could rest. “I would rather stab myself in the leg than write this paper,” I said, which was a joke except that it wasn’t**. And then, a scarily long time later (this year), it occurred to me that thinking about driving my car into a concrete wall so I didn’t have to go to work was Not Healthy, and also probably some of that self-harm that I was always telling my friends was not healthy, and I should quit my job at the VERY least.

I’ve been having trouble crying over the last couple of years. After the situation with my grandma. Her memorial happened. I was a champion. I helped clean, I looked nice, I smiled and made a joke, it was all good. After, my family was in the guest room talking about something, and something was said (what? I don’t know anymore), and I broke. My dad noticed first and tried to catch me, so he could hug me and keep the pieces together, but I am fast and agile when I am breaking, and I power-walked out of that house, weeping like the world was ending, and just kept walking until my feet hurt too much to keep walking, because I don’t think I was wearing shoes, and then I sat down in the grass on the side of a quiet rural road and I cried and cried and cried. Eventually mr. biscuit came to find me*** and helped me back into the house, and I Started To Feel Better, because goddamn, y’all, I do not like being sad. I know how to deal with anger, with fear, with jealousy. Grief? I don’t know what to do with grief. You can’t punch grief. All you can really do is feel it or ignore it. Feeling grief is fucked up and hard, so I chose to ignore it.

I stopped crying as much and started don’tcrying a lot more, because when I started to feel sad I shut it down fast like a freak. It bled over into the rest of my life, so that I started shutting  down other things–pleasure centers, self-care, rational thought (my depression was loving this. It was like Depression Christmas. My anxiety was less enthused because I would get too tired to care, but then it got happy again because I would try to bury my guilt in activity).

“You have to feel this,” said a voice in my head, and I replied (out loud) “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.”

At first not crying felt like a victory, but that was never going to be sustainable. Over the last…months? I’ve been trying to deal with my inability to cry, to process my feelings in a way that feels healthy. Much of that is just trying to make myself feel safe. A lot of really terrible shit happened to mr. biscuit and I over a short time, and while he came out of it stronger, I came out of it a giant wreck. My current life plan (working from home in a very low-stress job, staying mostly in my jammies, sitting on the porch a lot, not doing many things that require me to leave the house) is a very direct response to that. He’s taking care of me a lot–he brings in most of the money, does the gross chores, never mentions the state of the house, assures me it’s ok if I don’t want to get another job yet, doesn’t yell at video games as much because it makes me nervous–and that’s ok. I’m trying to gently re-introduce some of the things I used to love that also caused me stress, just to see if I can do them if I’m careful. If I can, great! If I can’t, it’s ok.

I used to cry after sex–not a lot, but more than what I assume is typical. I love sex^ and I love mr. biscuit, and I love having sex with him and I love feeling big feelings, and a lot of times all of that emotion would bubble up in my heart and I’d crest that first big orgasmic wave and whatever noise I was making would just become a gut-wrenching sob, and mr. biscuit would have to stop whatever he was doing and hold me until I stopped crying and calmed down. Like, this was fairly regular. I would cry (or laugh, or once I even started singing) a lot. As my brain stopped doings things that weren’t Survive, and my sex drive plummeted, so did the times I was so overcome with joy and pleasure and safety that I would weep. The other night it happened for the first time in years. I cried for what felt like hours^^ and I felt so much better afterwards.

“It’s been a while since you cried after,” he said, with a very particular smile of his that is impossible to describe except that it contains a universe of love and tenderness.

“It really has,” I agreed.
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On sewing successes

29 Jan

A little before Halloween 2011, my Gma (my mother’s mother) was diagnosed with brain cancer. I wrote about my her sewing machine shortly thereafter. Shortly before Christmas 2012, she died.

For a number of of the 14 months between her diagnosis and death, mr. biscuit and I cared for her while she went through treatment. She had a round and a half of radiation. The first was shortly after her diagnosis; the half, towards the end. She had monthly chemo, which she took in pill form. It never gave her any problems. Radiation made her progressively more tired and her scalp tender, but she reacted well to both treatments. To be perfectly accurate, the tumor reacted well. It didn’t do much changing for months and months, and even shrank a little, leaving her free to rebuild her strength and dexterity over and over again.

The tumor’s effects were progressive. Initially, it (probably) caused Gma to lose her balance, fall, and break her right hip. Since Gpa was already in a wheelchair due to a succession of knee injuries, this is when mr. biscuit and I entered the picture and became their caretakers. It was supposed to be a short-term thing, and indeed, Gma recovered quickly from her broken hip. She was walking again, and even driving, when something weird happened and she began to  lose control of her right foot. This was initially diagnosed as drop foot and chalked up to the back problems she’s always had, or her hip surgeries, or God know what, I don’t really remember, because it got progressively worse, traveling up her leg, and then it affected her right hand and arm. She started having painful, horrifying, seizure-like tremors in her leg that she couldn’t control or predict or stop. More than one night I wound up standing beside their bed, massaging the inside of her right leg with my big, strong hands because everybody was terrified and nobody had any idea what else we ought to be doing.

In my memory, this downturn happened within the blink of an eye. The space of a few weeks, at most. Is that true? I don’t know, and I haven’t the fortitude to dig through my social media records to more accurately reconstruct a timeline. It feels like a very short time had passed between the time she and Gpa went off for a drive on their own and the day I sat beside her at an appointment with her orthopedic surgeon that was supposed to be a routine followup, and he all of a sudden looked alarmed and said that her symptoms were indicative of something in the brain and sent us to the ER.

While we waited in the cold, very white ER, I entertained her. Impromptu jokes, clever wordplay, silly voices, teasing, riffing on the terrible night-time TV, literally whatever I could think of. No need to be modest: I was on fire. Gma, meanwhile, laughed at my antics, told me to stop making her laugh because laughing made her hip hurt, and flirted shamelessly with the young male nurse who asked her if she was warm enough (her response: “why don’t you come lay down with me and then I will be?”). I called her a shameless hussy and she seemed a proud of the label. Meanwhile, she got a CT scan. Her doctor ordered the scan to look for evidence of a stroke. Instead, they found a brain tumor. Ta-da!  And so she was transferred by ambulance to the bigger, urban hospital, about half an hour away. I followed in the car, but first I stopped at Sonic for my third dinner of the evening. I had chicken strips, mozzarella sticks, and 44 ounces of sweet tea. I wasn’t hungry, but I was starving.

From there, hospital visits and uncomfortable phone calls, MRIs, the entire family descending to sit in the waiting room for an early-morning brain surgery that revealed her brain tumor was the worst case scenario, my other grandmother succumbing to MS after fighting it to a stalemate for five decades. At some point, I bluescreened. Life became a constant battle against everything and everyone, including myself. I cried all the time. I swore even more than I usually do. I ate crap, and a ton of it, drank too much caffeine, picked fights with mr. biscuit. I also wrote like a demon, dashing out fiction in a desperate attempt to keep a grip on myself, but it’s all unreadable.

Gma got out of surgery, recovered in the hospital, went into rehab. She had lost the fine motor skills in her right hand, but worked like hell to get them back. She excelled in physical therapy and occupational therapy, perhaps because she was stubborn as hell and uninterested in her own weaknesses. By the time she left rehab, she could transfer into and out of the car and the wheelchair, write clearly enough to pay the bills out of the ancient hatbox where she kept them, tell when she was being bullshitted, all the usual.

Because I was so tired of failing, and so deeply weary, I never really posted about last spring’s struggle to construct my bodice. It was a long and terrible struggle. I tried to work with piping, I tried to do a trick with velcro to make it a back-lacing bodice I could get into by myself. It took me a solid month and three fully constructed failures to get it mostly right, and even then I wasn’t completely happy, just out of time. I finished it with 36 hours to spare before I had to perform at Scarborough. I did some corrective work before CRF this fall, and was a lot happier with the results, though I’m still not satisfied. Errors in the construction led to more wear and tear than should be showing after only two faires. The back is sloppy. The straps are either too short or too long. I don’t even like the style anymore–I want a doublet-style bodice. It’s just not right.

We left Gma and Gpa in the care of my cousin in August, after 13 months of caring for them. We were unemployed, but a friend had a spare room in a newly purchased townhome, so we we were able to get by with a little fudging, a bit of temping, and a lot of luck. The two of us hunkered down and tried to deal with the guilt, depression, poverty, and lingering emotional trauma of the past year. I hid in bed a lot. I cried a lot. I thought fixedly of nothing, and I did it a lot. Then, in October, our luck turned. I started at Carolina, where I did really well. Around Thanksgiving, the seventeen thousand applications and resumes mr. biscuit had sent out every week finally paid off, and he got a job. I also got a job–a steady one I actually enjoy, unlike the crappy, very sporadic temp work that had kept us afloat. We stopped hibernating. We started to feel like things were going to be ok.

Things were not going so well for Gma, When the family gathered for Thanksgiving, she had trouble with complete sentences and had all but lost her hard-won ability to transfer in and out of the car. From there, her decline was rapid. She couldn’t move much, even when she was uncomfortable. She couldn’t remember words. She couldn’t tell you what was wrong, or if indeed anything was wrong. The last time I saw her, in the nursing facility that I had long since come to love, despise, and fear, she spoke maybe twice, and that to say “mhm” for yes when I asked her very specific, easy questions. When she wanted to say “no,” she would give me a very pointed look and I would laugh and say “OK, OK.”

That last time we saw her, I brought her a selection of faire costumes I had made so she could see them and touch them. I had shown her pictures, but I wanted to really show her what I’d made with the two sewing machines she had given me over the years–the one she bought for me, and the one that had been hers.  A lot of what I brought her was new: the caul I made out of gold organza, black lace, and Swarovski crystals, the black velveteen and light yellow fleece cloak I’d finished only a couple of weeks before. I brought her my hat, and when I put it on her head she smiled a bit.

I also brought her my bodice.

When I picked my bodice up off the pile to show it to her, her intake of breath was audible. It had narrow gold sleeves (also new) still attached; the gold satin of the (old) hanging sleeves reflected the overhead lights. I helped her lift up her good hand so she could feel it, rub the velveteen and the satin between her fingers. mr. biscuit laced me into it so she could see how it looked on. As she held it, I talked a little bit about my struggles to make it, but eventually I ran out of things to say and just let her hold it.

She held onto it for a very long time.

The last time I saw my Gma, she was hugging mr. biscuit goodbye. She looked at me over his shoulder and waggled her eyebrows suggestively. She died about a week later, three days before Christmas.

Later, I learned from my mom that Gma had learned to sew from her mother. They made patterns out of newspaper for the suits, prom and wedding dresses, and various commissions that they made. Gma was, I’ve been told, an excellent seamstress. The only creation of hers that I know I’ve seen is my mother’s wedding gown. The last time I saw that gown I was in high school and had no idea what I was looking at, but in my memory, it looks bespoke. Which is to say, it is beautiful, elegantly constructed, and sturdy, and though far too small for me and sort of itchy with old lace, it was a pleasure to wear. I’ve never sewn with my Gma, or my mom; only with friends, whom I pity. I am a vicious hellbeast when sewing. I swear and cry and throw things and make a gigantic mess, and I hate every second of the whole stupid process. I thought, while I was making it, that stupid bodice was going to be the final straw that drovee me insane. It didn’t, but only just. And honestly, when I was done with it, it was fine. In the end, when I could put a little bit of distance between myself and the horrific events surrounding it and its constructions, I even made it better.

I didn’t think it was beautiful until it made Gma gasp.

bodice

gma me caitie big smiles

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