lastmandystanding

Mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Blogger. Aspiring writer. Smartass. Sometimes I say funny things.

Archive for the category “grief”

A few words about heartbreak. Listen to me.

You, there… with the broken heart, right in the thick of all that hurt. Yes, YOU.

• Listen to me…

I know that right now, what you’re going through, is the worst pain you’ve maybe ever felt in your life, up to this point. I know how your heart physically aches in your chest at the mention of their name. At the glimpse of a picture you’d forgotten about. At the sound of the first few tunes of a song that was special between you. At all those damn awesome memories that just keep playing like a movie in your mind, the world’s sappiest love story/rom-com.

• Listen to me: Stop looking at the pictures. Stop listening to the playlist. Stop that movie in your head. Don’t just pause it. Stop it. Take it out. Put it back in its case. Put it back on the shelf. Stop.

I know how it feels to be legitimately upset that the sun has the audacity to keep shining. Especially when warm, sunny days remind you of him/her. You wish it could just rain for infinity, because that matches your mood. And those emotions do need to be FELT (as if you have a choice in the matter) but I mean you wanna get DEEP down in those awful feelings. And while you’re down there, ruminate over all that other awful stuff you’ve been through. No wonder you’re convinced you’ll be alone forever. I mean, just look at ALL the other crap you’ve been through.

• Listen to me: If you’re reading this, you’ve made it through ALL. THE. CRAP. You’ll make it through this, too. Was ALL that other stuff easy to get through at the time? Nope. But here you are, on the other side of it. There’s nothing in life that you haven’t made it through thus far. Read that again in a day, a week, a month – it will still hold true.

I intimately understand feeling like you simply cannot breathe. Feeling as if all the air has escaped your lungs… and if you’re being completely honest, you could care less if it ever finds its way back. Those dark, ugly moments you wouldn’t dare share with even those closest to you. The ones where your thoughts have scared even yourself, and if anyone else knew them, they’d surely never look at you the same.

• Listen to me: There is NOTHING and NO ONE on this earth who is worth that. Do you hear me? NOTHING. NO ONE. This is non-negotiable. Slow down…inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth, slowly. Feel that? You’re breathing. It hurts. And it’s taking your concentration. But you’re breathing.

I know how every time some well-meaning person tells you “it’s their loss; you deserve better; they’ll regret this someday; you’ll be ok; you’ll feel again; you’ll find someone, blah blah blah” you think to yourself (or out loud) “you just don’t understand… this was my person.”

• Listen to me: They are not your person. They might have been for a little while, but “your person” would never do this to you. And (spoiler alert) – all those well-meaning people? THEY’RE RIGHT.

I know what it’s like to pour over every single detail, every conversation, every moment, every memory, every text message in that thread, wondering where it went wrong. Wondering how in the world he/she could possibly do this to you after all you’ve been through and all you had planned for the future.

• Listen to me: It does not matter HOW they could do it to you. All that matters now is that they DID. And that, my friend, is one hundred percent on THEM. Stop beating yourself up over someone else’s actions. Matter of fact, stop beating yourself up for your OWN actions, too. You’re not perfect. You never will be. No one is. No one ever will be.

Look, I know this probably sounds great in theory, right? But you may be thinking “what does this broad even know?” Turns out, a LOT more than I’ve ever given myself credit for. A lot more that a lot of people have ever given me credit for. I’ve been counted down and out more times than I can even count. But look at me: still here. Scar tissue and all. I’m no different than you.

You are grieving a tangible loss; the death of everything you had envisioned and hoped for. Not all that different from grieving a physical death. I’ve grieved both, and I dare say that grieving someone who’s still alive just might be harder. There’s no timeline on grief. One day (might be months from now, maybe years?) it will literally feel like you just woke up… different. Not perfect. Not like everything is fine and nothing happened. Just… different. Maybe not even a firm “ok” but you’ll have the belief that things WILL BE ok. Your mood shifts. Your brain shifts. Your outlook shifts. That first layer of dark clouds lifts and you’ll see the sun peeking through and not be pissed at it. And then another day, you’ll realize that another layer has lifted and you can actually see blue sky, and it won’t remind you of their eyes or the fact that they liked the sun or that the sky was blue so many times during your (however many) year relationship and all those other things you now realize were ridiculous to think about. In fact, as those clouds begin to dissipate and lift, you might even see things you didn’t see before, and start realizing that this short term pain in exchange for long term happiness is much better than long term pain in exchange for mediocre happiness. You are not meant for mediocre. Then one day, you’ll delete the pictures, and you’ll delete that entire text thread. Yep. The entire thing. And once that happens, friend, you’ve just reached the top of that mountain and your imminent descent is actually where YOU. WILL RISE. You will mount with wings like eagles. You just have to hold on and keep going long enough to get there.

• Listen to me: You WILL get through this. But in my opinion (based 100% on experience) these things are crucial to your survival:

1. Your faith – whatever that means to you. My faith is in God. Yours may be different. Whatever your faith is, even if it’s simply the faith that one day it won’t hurt this much, cling tightly to it. Both hands. White knuckle. Death grip. For dear life.

2. Your family and friends, or random people, or strangers. Mine were (and still are) crucial to my survival and wellbeing. Those people who come and MAKE YOU get out of the house (greasy hair, no makeup and soft-cup bra that is basically only for decoration because it surely isn’t supportive, unlike your friends) even if it’s just to ride in the car with them while they run errands, or the ones who come and bring pizza and wine — THEY ARE YOUR PEOPLE. Find them. Love them. Be loyal to them. Keep them. These are your “ride or dies.”

3. Laughter. I can’t stress this enough. Through your swollen, almond-sliver eyes, watch as much mind-numbing hilariousness as often as possible. Netflix. Amazon. Hulu. Memes on the internet. Cat vs cucumber videos. Videos of people doing ‘what the fluff’ challenge with their dogs. Spongebob. The Office. Basically any of the Disney movies. Something funny. Trust me on this step, because one day, you’ll hear this sorta familiar weird sound escape your cake hole and you’ll realize you can still actually laugh.

4. Get up. Dress up. Show up. Every day. Sometimes, that may feel like too much. That’s ok. Two out of three ain’t bad. Get up. Show up. Even if that’s all you do that one day, it’s probably more than you thought you were capable of, and it makes it easier the next day, and the next day, and the day after that.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, by Colette Werden:

“It’s OK if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire.”

• Listen to me: The WHOLE. DAMN. FIRE.

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The Thing About Pain

It’s much easier to say “my arm is broken” than “my heart/spirit is broken.”  Both can be detrimental to one’s health and well-being. Speaking from my own experience, both hurt like hell.

A broken arm receives immediate attention. It is thoroughly checked over, x-rayed, set back in place and in a cast so that it heals properly. It might even require surgery – going deep inside to fix the problem so that it can heal the way it is supposed to. I fell and broke my arm once, and it was evident to everyone within earshot that it was extremely painful. It hurt so badly that all I could do was cry and cuss. (And then I apologized to the doctor and nurses for cussing.) It became top priority to make sure that broken bone was taken care of and set up for proper healing. THAT was a pain you could see.

The latter, however… it is harder to see, but it is real. It is painful. It needs to heal. But, attention? No, not usually. It’s too uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about emotional pain. But yet, we walk around in a world full of broken human beings. Broken children, who will become broken adults. Broken adults, who, as children, were not set up for proper healing. Broken adults who didn’t become broken until they were older, but still have not healed. No one wants to dig deep and fix that pain. Hell, most people don’t even want to talk about it, let alone DO something about it. So, there in the darkness, it sits. There, it festers. It infects other parts of our lives. It infects other people. Why? Because hurt people HURT PEOPLE.

There’s a saying that if we all put all of our problems out in one big pile for all to see, we’d probably gladly pick our own problems back up. Meaning, someone always has it worse than we do, and we should just keep our own problems to ourselves. But does that mean we just don’t talk about them?

There are a lot of people out there hurting, pretending that they are not. Because they feel they can’t possibly expose that raw, imperfect side of themselves to the world ruled by social media likes, follows and shares. That’s not shareable. That isn’t likeable. We don’t talk about those things. Pain is not pleasant. It is not pleasant to experience, and it is not pleasant to talk/read/hear about. By definition, pain is physical or emotional suffering. It is everywhere. It surrounds us as does the air we breathe. Yet no one wants to talk about it, or admit their own. And my friends, THAT is a problem.

Because here’s the thing about pain: It becomes comfortable.

(What did she just say?) Yes. You read that correctly. Pain becomes comfortable when you’re not even looking.

I am speaking from my own experience here, but maybe you can relate in some way. I have chronic low back pain, bursitis in both hips, disc issues, etc. I’ve had back surgery. I have had multiple steroid injections for the pain. The injections contain steroids, anti-inflammatories, and a numbing agent (similar to Novocaine at the dentist.) They are NOT pleasant to receive, in fact they hurt like an S.O.B. But there is this blissful window of a few hours afterwards, when the numbing agent is in full effect. Due to the location of the injections, it’s almost like having an epidural for a short while. It is in that absence of ANY feeling that I most realize just how much pain I have been living with. The extent of the pain numbs the true extent of the pain.

Let that last part sink in for a moment. It is only when I am completely NUMB that I can acknowledge the full extent of my constant PAIN. My pain is replaced with a new, foreign feeling: relief.

My relief forthat particular pain comes in the form of spinal and hip injections. Other people have pain (physical or emotional) that can only be numbed with alcohol…or drugs…or self-harm…or sexual promiscuity, etc.

But I have a confession. I am doing my part in starting a conversation that is uncomfortable. It is mostly for my own catharsis, but also to let you know that you are NOT alone.

I have come to realize, and now freely admit, that I am seriously lacking in the emotional pain relief department, and this is a pain that I have carried for far too long. Sure, I have band-aids for it. Emotional Tylenol, if you will. My family, my love, my friends, writing, making funny videos, photography, creating something with my hands, be it painting, cooking, baking, decorating, organizing, etc. But even when you see me at my “best” – my funniest – my most supportive of others – my happiest – my most loving … it is there. In fact, it is very possible that in those moments, it is its loudest. I realize that may not make sense to most people.

It has been there for so long, that it is actually comfortable to me now. It happened when I wasn’t even looking. It came right into my life when I was too young to stop it, and ever since, it has just attached itself to me and started calling the shots. I didn’t even notice. I always knew the pain was there, but I became a master at functioning with it. I am a master, still. But it’s getting harder to keep that title.

Going back into my youth as far as I can remember, I can’t recall a time that I WASN’T scared and anxious most of the time. About what? Everything. I experienced trauma at a very young age. Young, but old enough to remember. I’m not ready to go into that just yet, but it was legitimate, deep, life-altering trauma in every sense of the ugly word.

Now, science and medicine can tell you what trauma (and the lingering stress and anxiety) does to the mind and body over time. I can tell you that every bit of it is true. It is hell. It is exhausting.  IT. IS. PAIN.  I can honestly say that it has affected every single aspect of my life. My personal relationships, friendships, my health, the way I parent my children, the way I mentally and verbally respond to certain things, my work performance, my self-image, self-esteem, self-worth, how my body reacts to things, my social life, how I handle stress, how I treat my own body…the list could go on and on.

I know what you’re thinking – she needs counseling, she needs to give it to God. Oh, I’ve been to counseling – several counselors as an adult; nothing as a child. I’ve TALKED about it to counselors (and one pastor) ‘til I’m blue in the face. And trust me when I say that I have screamed and begged and pleaded with God to just – TAKE IT. I don’t want it anymore, and I can’t carry it anymore. And I feel like He is giving me a clear message that He indeed WILL, but I have some work to do first. I can finally let go of the pain, but I need to bring others on my journey. Maybe that’s you? Maybe it’s someone you know. (He hasn’t told me that part yet.)

And, lest you fear you’ve stumbled upon a holy-rolling religious fanatic, let me assure you – I am neither. But I am deeply spiritual. I believe in God. I believe in salvation. I pray. But I do not go to church (gasp!). I do all of this from wherever I am, because HE is wherever I am. And yes, I talk to God – not like most people probably do, but I like to think He and I have our own little way of communicating. I imagine he face-palms and shakes his head at me a majority of the time. I talk to Him more like I would talk to a person in my living room over coffee. Me to God: “I’m sorry – you want me to do WHAT now?” For instance, I recently had a very vivid dream about a girl with whom I went to high school. I think I’ve seen her exactly twice in the twenty-three years since we graduated. As clear as day, I got the message that I was supposed to reach out and tell her about the dream, because she needed to hear it. Me to God again: “Ummm, have we met? It’s like you don’t even know me. Huh uh. Wrong girl. Not doing it. Next topic, please.” So, I ignored it for about a week. Then, just the other day, I woke up and was like “OK, FINE!! WHATEVER, GOD” (in my most teenager-y, whiniest voice, arms folded, heavy on the eye-roll.) So I reached out to her. And as you can imagine, it started out like “Hi, ok so I don’t usually do this – in fact, I have never done this, but here’s what I got… Oh, and P.S. Please don’t think I’m a lunatic…” She was moved to tears, thanked me profusely for reaching out and said she needed to know she was not alone. (Wipes forehead) PHEW!! Thank God! No, literally, me to God again: “thank you, God. I was a small blessing to her today. Let me be that every day to someone. “

But I digress. Back to the discussion at hand… THE PAIN.

Counselors, check. Pastor, check. Ask for God’s help, check. And yet I hold on. Because it is comfortable to me. My biggest pain is also my comfort and my oldest friend. It knows what no one else knows. It’s been a part of me for so long, that I truly cannot grasp what it would feel like to be free of it. Who am I if I’m not hurting? Who am I if I’m not broken? Who am I if I’m not consumed by grief? Who am I if I’m not anxious and worried all the time? The answer to that is – I don’t know, but I’m going to find her. Step one in doing so is admitting my pain, my trauma, my grief, my loss. I refuse to allow another day/week/month/year/decade of my life pass by, suffering in silence, praying that one day, it will just go away.

My experience matters. My trauma matters. My pain matters. My suffering matters. I matter. I am not alone. YOU are not alone.

In order for the woman to heal, she has to bring to light, that which the girl has kept in the dark for far too long. Heal the girl, and the woman will appear and reach her full, God-given potential and purpose.

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