Blurry

Blurry

I possess a photographic memory. Some argue that such a thing does not really exist. I invite those dissenters to spend a day or two or twelve in my brain. I can recall every outfit worn on every first day of school ever, college and kindergarten included. I remember the shirt my grandmother wore the day she told me the dog who bit my face when I was nine months old died; I remember being bitten by that dog. I remember things people said in the heat of the moment and in the dull moments in between; and yes, I know what they wore at the time.

I remember a late night in my junior college dorm room, windows cracked because we lived just over the boiler room. I remember writing, as I always did, the only light coming from my gigantic Gateway desktop. My roommate gone, I turned the music up a little louder than usual.

Once I made my way through Jewel’s 1998 Spirit album, I turned on Puddle of Mudd’s song, “Blurry.”

And I played it on repeat for hours.

Now realize, I didn’t receive a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) until after my oldest son arrived in this world. We’re talking late winter, early spring 2006. Ten years ago. Prior to that point, I just thought I was straight up crazy.

As my senior year of high school progressed, I felt extreme panic—though I didn’t know that’s what it was a the time. Choosing a college and a major and a significant amount of debt sent me into a spiral of what I now know to be continuous panic attacks accompanied by cutting as a (poor) coping mechanism. A teacher turned me in to the counselor at the time, and I, being the intelligent woman I am, lied my way out of what could have become a hospitalization at the time.

The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I didn’t do so well with the redirection and ended up in ICU and the mental ward of the hospital for five days. The same panic and fear persisted the upcoming changes in my life, but the doctors during my stay didn’t pinpoint the problem and sent me on my way.

Let’s not ignore the fact that once diagnosed with a kidney disorder while pregnant, placed on Level III bedrest, and unable to work or save money during a pregnancy during which the father of my child provided no support, I panicked to the utmost. That panic resulted in the ultimate placement of my daughter for adoption.

It wasn’t until after my son was born and I had a giant panic attack attempting to breastfeed him and stayed in a high level of panic during his first three months that anyone said, “Hey, is this your norm? Because it’s not the norm.”

I didn’t know that the general population didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread waking in the morning. I didn’t know that I could feel anything more than hopeless or worthless. Add in the depression of losing a child to adoption and subsequent giant losses in my life, and I forgot what it felt like to feel anything more than nothing.

Therapy and medication helped, off and on, over the years. I experienced a number of stable, as-normal-as-can-be years. And then 2014 happened. 2015 involved a lot of work on my part, but improved. For the most part, 2016 featured me with my head above water.

Until it didn’t.

Now I feel like that junior in college, sitting under her loft bed in a room lit only by her computer, typing out bad poetry while listening to “Blurry” on repeat. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t think I deserved to know who I was. I didn’t understand that I could ask for help; didn’t understand that asking for help wasn’t a giant sign of failure.

In those very dark months before my first psychiatric hospitalization, I just thought this is what life felt like. Everyone lived in their own bubble and generally wanted to pop themselves on a daily basis. I know—I can recall each thought of that night—that I wanted to die. I didn’t know how or by what means, but I knew I didn’t want to live any longer. I felt tired of feeling blurry, of not knowing who I was or what all these anxious thoughts meant. I just wanted them to stop.

I live there now sometimes. More frequently than I’d like.

“Everything’s so blurry. Everyone’s so fake.”

I’ve started that dangerous process of pushing people away. “I’m fine.” I’m not. I just don’t want to admit how bad things are inside my messy mind. I don’t want to be held accountable for actions or inactions. I don’t want to think long term. I don’t want to do anything. I am lost somewhere inside myself.

Someone asked me questions that night as I listened to that song. Questions that poked and prodded at places I didn’t want to deal with just yet. They prodded me to go to bed instead of go through with any of the thoughts in my mind.

One thing I’ve learned about getting older is that people are less likely to poke and prod as we age. We don’t want to get messy with one another. We don’t want to disrupt order or friendships or life as we know it. Even for those closest to us—even our spouses—it’s easier to just type out some placating bullshit about how “you can do it” and “it will be okay.”

I hope I’ll be okay. I’m fighting to be okay. But the truth is that my mind is waging a battle I can’t even begin to understand what to do with, how to fight right now. What do you do with that? How do you shake it off and say, “Well, tomorrow is a new day,” when you know, damn well, tomorrow is just more of the same.

I don’t know right now. Everything’s so blurry.

Blurry

 

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Current Thoughts of a Firefighter’s Wife

Current Thoughts of a Firefighter's Wife

I don’t often write about my role as a firefighter’s wife anymore as it isn’t the main narrative in my life. For various reasons, I distanced myself from focusing on it as doing so caused excess anxiety.

Honestly, I struggle the most on the days my husband works his 24 hour shift. He remains a stabilizing, calming factor in my life. Moreover, even though I no longer listen to the scanner when he works, if I let it, my mind will run away with worst case scenarios. I try to stay busy when he works so I don’t have time to dwell on “What If.” One (ex-) therapist didn’t understand the rise in anxiety while my husband worked his shift. She didn’t last long.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a retired firefighter with my husband the rest of the department.

I’ve wanted to go with him every time over the years, but until August I worked a day job that didn’t let me escape for three hours midday. Until this year, I also didn’t have a local childcare option if the kids didn’t have school on the day of a funeral. Now that I set my own work schedule and have childcare when I need it, I can attend with my husband.

As we gathered in the garage at the fire department, a fellow firefighter commented on my presence in a positive manner.

“This is what we’re missing these days: our families,” my husband replied.

One other firefighter wife attended.

I sat with our department, all dressed in their Class A uniforms, and watched as a beloved wife said her final goodbyes. I listened as a grown son told a room full of loved ones and firefighters how his dad was his hero. To say my heart felt heavy would be a gross understatement.

I sat in the funeral home knowing I might someday sit in that very same funeral home to say goodbye to my husband surrounded by a bunch of firefighters in their Class As. I also realized I will attend many, many more funerals over the years—not just for those firefighters who came before, but for the men who work, day in and day out, with my husband. The ones who joke with me at the VFW after a funeral, who love our sons.

At the cemetery, I stood alone as the firefighters stood in their two lines during the military rites and the final goodbye.

Last night, the two of us watched Burn, a documentary about the Detroit Fire Department. I can’t decide if it’s a must watch or a must avoid for fire spouses, but it definitely ranked as highly informative and well done. I didn’t know that the DFD fights the most fires per year of any city in the country. Detroit is literally burning down, with 95% of the fires they fight (as of release in 2010) being arson. That’s not okay.

In the documentary, we saw how one firefighter lives life as a paraplegic after a devastating collapse at a fire. I also learned that bath tubs fall through ceilings and air conditioners fall out of windows, neither a thing I’ve ever considered. The saddest part, however, was a man who loved his wife oh-so-much and couldn’t wait for his retirement to live his life with her; she died shortly before his last day of work.

I don’t know what life holds for me as a firefighter’s wife. The unknown of it all kind of pokes at places I don’t like to go very often anymore. I choose to live in the present as much as my tricky mind lets me. But yesterday made me think a lot about the fire department family, my personal skill set, and that previously mentioned setting of my own schedule. I may write more about being a firefighter’s wife this year as a new project seems to be forming itself. We’ll see.

For now, if you know my husband is working a 24 hour shift, maybe just check in on me or send me funny gifs or dog videos. I’m working hard on my coping techniques to remain in safe spaces while he’s gone, but sometimes they fail. Over the past year, I’ve realized how I need to ask for help when I need it. So. Here I am.

Current Thoughts of a Firefighter's Wife