In preparation for social events, I take time before the event to play through possible conversations and social interactions I may have. Who will be there? What’s going on in their life? What will they want to talk about? What will they ask me? What will I say? Is there anything I can’t say? Is that information public knowledge yet? Would that comment be hurtful to this person? My brain just keeps going and playing through the possibilities. In order to channel this into a game plan rather than a spiral into a psychotic break, I put a lot of energy into being realistic and calm during these periods of mental preparation.
Determining what most people would ask me at my cousin’s wedding was easy. The last time these people had seen me was at my mom’s funeral. They were sure to ask me, “How are you doing?” I reflected on this. How was I doing? I’d been trying to gauge it. I took into account my mental state, how work was going, the tidiness of my apartment, how frequently I was crying, how often I was going out with friends, how much time I was spending with family, and my overall feeling towards life in general. The answer: other than grief, I’m doing pretty excellent.
Once I came up with this answer, I was content to enter conversations. My response was well balanced in darkness and light, adequately portraying how I’d been feeling. Whether this response was the ending point of an interaction, or the gateway to deeper conversation, I wasn’t sure. Whether they would focus on the former or latter part of my responses up to them.
Grief is scary. It’s overwhelming and dark and uncharted for many. Even if one has experienced their own grief, it is not the same as mine. Each situation and person and passing is unique in its own way. Talking about losing a loved one evokes emotions that are hard to handle. Unless someone is open to that, it’s not something I want to throw their way. However, these people were all my family. They feel my grief in a way many can’t. They knew my mom in a light that I did. They have a deeper and more personal understanding of the devastation her absence leaves. So I was okay to share a little darkness.
I’ve been feeling like I need someone outside of my own head to determine how I am doing. When dealing with mental illnesses, you can’t always trust yourself. You have to be able to trust at least one other person who really knows you to be your barometer. Hopefully this person sees you regularly. Even better if they live with you. For me, this person was my mom.
My mom would quickly be able to tell when I was struggling, we would talk about it, and she would help me through the struggle. I never felt like I was a burden to her; I was her child, this was her job, what she lived for, what she loved to do. She would tell us she was sent here to be a mom to five little kiddles (but I didn’t know I would get the five BEST little kiddles) and help them get to heaven. With a life mission like that, I knew my importance. Her unconditional love was unwavering.
Without my mom in the picture, I have been trying to find pieces of mom to make up for her loss. As you can imagine, I am finding this to be incredibly difficult. It reminds me of when I was a child and crossed the street without looking. Once I was safe on the other side, my mom pulled me close, looked deep into my eyes and said, “Coly. Please do not cross the street without looking. If there is a car coming and it hits you, that’s a mistake I can’t fix. If something were to happen to you, I can’t replace you. This was a mistake today. I’m so happy you’re okay, but do you know what it means when we make a mistake? It means three things: we learn from it, try never to do it again, and we fix it. Do you understand why you need to look both ways and hold my hand before you cross the street? Can you try to do that next time? I love you very much, Coly. I love you unconditionally, do you know what that means?”
Forever and ever, no matter what.
As I try to cross the highway of raging grief with social anxiety, I need to remember that it’s okay for me to ask people to hold my hand. I feel vulnerable asking for help. I feel like a failure, a misfit, a child. But the truth is, I can’t do it alone, and I don’t think my mom would want me to either. I need her love. While she may not be here physically to give it, I know it lives on because I have seen it in others.
It’s time to move along from mental preparation to inspired action.