Unpacking the Last Ten Months (Part 2) #TraumaticTriggers #Coping #Grief #Healing

I’m baaaaack!  Here’s part two of my longest blog post ever. (See prior post for part one if you missed it.)

What caused my latest tailspin of emotional turmoil?

It was a weeknight in January and I had to make the 911 call. Thank God I didn’t have to do this one alone. The roommate and I heard a loud bang bang and moments later I was on the phone calling in the single car accident. Sadly, there was nothing we could really do. Thankfully the emergency personnel arrived quickly and dove into their work. A scene reminiscent to one I remembered all too well. I stood as close as I could to the accident site that night—just a few steps away from my driveway as the roommate and I prayed for the person. We prayed so very hard for him.

Things were different—this person wasn’t Chris but he was close to his age, this was a car and not a bike, it was night and not the evening, I’d made the call instead of walking up to the person on the emergency call, this wasn’t my husband but he was someone’s special person.  I watched the medical examiner get in his truck and make the calls. In that moment I recognized the aftermath of tragedy that was about to rain upon an unsuspecting family. I worked through the event doing all the of the right things with a level head but this time I was fully aware of the state of shock I was in. I knew I would crash and I did in the days after. The crash was slow but no less violent than all the times before.

Death had come banging at my door. It didn’t stop around the corner before my house—no, this time it had banged at my door. This time I didn’t drive past it. It had come directly to me. I made the call for help—a  call that felt helpless and completely fruitless.

And thus began the tailspin.

I was locked in my traumatic response the next day and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I did the things I needed to do, went through the motions as the shock waned and the emotions filled in the cracks. The sadness weighed me down. I prayed so hard. I went to my nearby special spot because I didn’t have the energy to drive to the grotto. I couldn’t cry but still the tears were choking me. My roommate experienced a similar response and I hated that he was suffering too even though I took solace in knowing that I could coach him through it. I went to dinner with my family that evening and then came home still stuck in the emotional process of the tragedy.

It wasn’t until a short phone call that night with someone who understands me well that I was even able to feel the emotions pour out of me. I sat on the floor of my bedroom recounting the accident, my voice finally breaking and tears pooling in my eyes. I was so frustrated with myself and my reaction. But somehow that listening ear on the other end of the phone, acknowledging the level of crap I was facing and giving words of strength helped me keep moving through the trauma.

Although I was working through it, it was a slow walk through the darkness. More and more people around me began moving from this world to the next.  Funeral after funeral. Loss after loss. Heaven’s doors must’ve been opened wide during those few months.

The compounding losses left me feeling unbelievably sad, incredibly frustrated, and angrier than I’d been in years. Then I was physically ill—again. This time I woke up with the room spinning and it scared the crap out of me. I was dizzy and all I could think coming off that terrible migraine a little over a month prior was that I had a tumor or something awful. (Yes, I’m dramatic and no I don’t need Google to help me come up with possible diagnoses. I have a wild enough imagination on my own.) I went to the doctor to find out that I had vertigo. Annoying especially when I suddenly had to walk slow and deliberately and I couldn’t make any sudden movements as to not invoke an episode.  Oh yeah and I couldn’t drive for almost a week. Goodbye independence. Hello new level of irritation.

During this time, I decided it was time to say goodbye to the truck. I’d started the process of purchasing a new vehicle the week before my nasty vertigo put me down and out. I was so upset that I couldn’t drive my truck into the dealership to trade it in and obviously I couldn’t even drive my new vehicle home either. It sucked. Like majorly sucked. My heart was bleeding again. I was cussing a lot. I was so angry. I was not myself. I was struggling.

I was so incredibly frustrated at how with even the passage of time, all the counseling, and healing that I’d been through I still had this type of reaction to death. At least when it comes to the traumatic scenes, it feels like I should be over this. I’ve learned the lessons, done the time, and should have moved on to the next level. Why don’t I have a handle on my emotional responses yet? Why can’t I be in control of my reaction to this? Why can’t I just be past this?

Truth is I am better than I once was at this even if I’m not at the level that I want to be at. This is where I can recognize how my overachieving nature is both a double-edged sword of positive and negative. It is good that I push myself to be better. That self-imposed need to move further and be better is a positive thing. However at the same time I could easily slip into the trap of berating myself for not being at the level of healing I think I should be at with these responses. If I step outside myself, I can see that I handled this well. I coped well with what was thrown at me. Did I cope as quickly as I wished I would? No, but this isn’t about wishes its about the reality. I would rather brush the trauma I’ve suffered off as no big deal, but  it still is a big deal. In a few short hours, my life went from ordinary to tragic and then somehow I’m expected to return to ordinary unscathed. If a friend was telling me this story, I would tell them that’s an unrealistic expectation to hold themselves to because it is.

I’m not saying poor me here. This isn’t a pity party; however, it is a moment of raw honesty. It’s a weird thing to wish so deeply that I’d never went through tragedy and yet at the same time I’m so deeply grateful for how it changed me. Rather a more proper statement would be I hate how tragedy wounded me but I’m grateful for the healthy coping habits and lifestyle that it forged.  None of it was easy though and it’s always a new level of challenging.

I was so deeply heartbroken over so many things from January to April and it truly has taken me until these past few weeks to begin to feel myself again. Writing this out allows me to see outside myself for a bit. In doing this I can truly acknowledge the level of difficulty and cut myself a break for all the feels and all the sadness I was working through. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back. 😉

Talk about a lot of heavy. I promise my third and final post will be a little lighter. 🙂 Till then remember to love yourself. Be kind and compassionate towards your needs and your wounds. What’s inside of you seeps out to those around you so put the goodness inside so it can shine through onto others.  

Til next time Love, Hugs, and Sunshine! <3

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Unpacking the Last Ten Months #Feels #GriefStrikesAgain #Coping #MovingForward

It’s been over ten months since I’ve been able to sit at the keyboard and write without deadlines, holidays, course prep, and everything else. It’s no wonder that for the girl who needs to write as much as she needs to breathe that I’ve felt like I’ve been suffocating. Minus a short two week break where I felt completely myself, I’ve been running a marathon and I’m not a runner. Cardio is SO NOT my thing.

So much has happened in these past ten months that it’s going to take more than one blog post to fit in all the feels, all the lessons, and all the actions, but I need to unpack this and someone out there needs to read it. If life has taught me anything its that my story is not my own and neither is yours. Our stories heal each other, motivate each other, and teach one another. Thank God for the gift of a story. Thank God for the gift of writing.

I’ve just wrapped up my first full academic year as a full time professor and like everything I do in life it was full speed ahead, no time to think—it was go time.

During these past ten months I’ve been to the ER, taught eleven classes (six total during one semester at one time at two different schools), attended two funerals, interviewed to be rehired, fostered my best friend’s cat, moved two different people, made a 911 call when death came to my front door (subsequently fought through the traumatic trigger said death caused), fell in love, was left on the side of the road again by my truck, was diagnosed with vertigo, couldn’t drive for almost a week, traded in the truck for a new vehicle, found myself missing the living as much as the dead,  taught my most memorable class to date, experienced how much more students can change my life than I could ever change theirs, prayed harder than I ever have, kept a Lenten promise to walk with Jesus everyday for thirty minutes (found healing and physical health in that), worked more hours than I ever have in my life (and I used to work tax season crazy hours), lived knowing how deeply I was relying on God’s grace in the very moment it was happening, found reprieve and comedic relief with three amazing young men at the stool of a coffee bar, and those are just the things I can remember at this point.  (Side note: that was an intensely long sentence that is probably not grammatically correct but perfectly sums up my life recently.)

The first half of my whirlwind journey into full-time academia was riddled with car troubles and so much work I can’t even begin to explain it to you. I truly went from zero to a hundred in three seconds without a reprieve until the end of December. Six classes at once—seriously intense. I used to take six classes at once as a student and that was rough but as an instructor that’s a whole other level.

This was the semester with my most memorable class to date for many reasons, but they were one special group I looked forward to seeing each week. I remember being in my car driving from college campus to college campus being exhausted functioning only on caffeine and Jesus wondering how in the world I would get it together to be able to form a coherent sentence much less teach accounting. And somehow I did it and miraculously they appeared to learn something. When I questioned myself as to why I was torturing myself like this in my mind and often out of my mouth would come the words, “because this is what God is asking you to do. It is the right thing. You’re honoring your commitments.”

Do you know why people tend to have such deep respect and admiration for people who follow through and honor their commitments? It’s because it is hard as crap to do. If I told you it was a breeze that would be the biggest lie ever. You would probably see flames erupt around me and hell open up below because August to December was a serious struggle! I even landed myself in the ER with a terrible migraine (FYI that was my first trip ever to the ER and I only went because I thought I might be dying—dramatic much? Sometimes but it had to be at that level or me to go.) Come the Monday after I was walking into class with the lights half off, coffee in hand teaching because it was the week before finals—no sick days for this gal. My students needed me to show up for them and they didn’t seem to have a problem with the dark classroom. Probably because it made it easier for them to sleep through my lectures. 😉

How did I make it? Coffee and Jesus, this should come as no shock. And at one point I had to seek out coffee first thing in the morning before that 7:45am class because my coffee pot broke. So tragic. In the span of a week—my truck broke down (again), my coffee pot broke, and my head “broke.” 🙁 I hardcore struggled and I kept looking forward to mid-December—a break. My friends would say next semester will be easier. I appreciated their positive enthusiasm but inside I felt my gut say it will be different than this but not easier. It’s annoying when your gut is right.

I wrapped up December with all the things and found myself full swing into a Christmas season I felt no joy for. I hadn’t felt quite so low and depressed for Christmas since the first one after Chris had died. I know that had to do in part with it being the first Christmas without his mother being here. And it was another Christmas my heart ached for my family—the family I already have and the family I so deeply desire. Same story, different day.

The Sunday before Christmas I was in church with my friend pouring out my heart for many people and for my family. I’d spent a long semester pouring out my heart on my knees each Sunday and thanking God for getting me through, but this Sunday was different. There was a shift afoot.

After service my friend and I stopped to get supplies for her newly adopted cat (who was living in my house until she got her own place) before stopping to grab lunch to go. I walked into the restaurant and there he was—with his entire family. There he was and there I was turning into a thirteen year old school girl who almost ripped her best friend’s arm off at the sight of him. Who is he? Someone I’d been curious about for a while. Someone I wanted to know better. Seeing him unexpectedly two days before Christmas helped the holidays not hurt so much.

Our first not-date that turned into a date was the following Sunday. With him January started off as one of the best months of my life. For a brief moment in time, I could breathe again and I was in a place I don’t remember experiencing before. I was praying my way through every moment of a relationship with a person who I felt completely myself with on levels I’d never reached before. Those days were short but so full of goodness and I’m so proud of myself for fully experiencing those moments while I was in them without fearing loss. I lived every moment with him as it was happening and that was magical.

He is the person who taught me many things in a short period of time, who healed wounds I thought would always ache, a man who gave me hope.

But things happen beyond our control and we deal with them the best ways we know how. It’s an odd thing to admire and respect someone for their virtues even if those same virtues cause your separation. But at the same time it is remarkably inspiring to witness a man’s actions reflect his words.  In those moments and the days since I’ve leaned into and sometimes clung to trusting God on this one.

In thinking of this situation came the first part of the phrase, circumstances don’t change feelings. It’s been a challenging experience to submit myself to God’s timing, not mine. His will, not mine. To look into this man’s eyes and see the circumstances have changed but the feelings haven’t. And while I miss him every single day through all the hard feels I pray for him and I pray for God’s guidance for us both. I thank God for him every single day. He is the most difficult person to miss because in missing him I’m missing a part of myself.

But isn’t that one of the heaviest parts of grief? Missing the person you were while you were with that other person. Missing the way that person made you feel. Missing that connection.

Overlying all of these events and due to these events, I’ve found myself in a deep season of grieving. Grieving those people who recently departed—like my mother-in-law. Here again teaching has managed to save my life or at least keep me afloat during this different season of grief. My students change my life more than I could ever change theirs. I’ve experienced so many goodbyes since last summer or rather a large number of see you later’s. And that remains hard to process and move through. The grieving process is different this time around, different people different kinds of losses, and I’m a different person. But while the process is different, it is strikingly the same–hard, heavy, and painful. The difference is I’ve experienced the ebb and flow before and I know this won’t last forever.

So what else happened? January turned tough pretty quickly as I rolled into the next semester there was a lot of death around me and it seeped into the first few months of the year.

I can’t deny the wounds that still remain from the way Chris left this world and while the days march on from that time the trauma still exists within me. I must confess that still irritates me—the amount of trauma buried within me and how things bring it to the surface. I try to have compassion for myself but it is infinitely frustrating the way things can send my emotional state into a tailspin.

What caused this tailspin? I’ll save that for my next post later this week. 🙂 Til then get out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts–that’s where I’m heading.

#LoveHugsAndSunshine #NeverGiveUpOnYourAlwaysAndForever #MoveForwardAlways

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