Saturday, November 10, 2012

Clawing My Way to Rightside Up

Mud Puddle Stompers
Mud Puddle Stompers (Photo credit: clappstar)
You ever step in a puddle, or a hole, and discover, much too late, that sucker was a LOT deeper than you thought it was?

This would be me, in October.

And then there was a monster at the bottom of the hole that grabbed my ankle.

You see, I had this brilliant idea. I decided to go into the dark on my newest novel, go for a psychological thriller. Lead a woman into a relationship that turns emotionally and physically violent, then lead her out again (and touch on emotional violence towards men, as well).

After all, I've lived it myself, and am now at a safe distance from it (or so I thought). And October is Domestic Violence awareness month in the US.  So I figured I could solicit guest posts on the subject, which would serve the dual purpose of bringing awareness on the subject, AND help me research other points of view. Easy-peasy, right?

I did not expect to become emotionally overwhelmed by the stories I was reading.  So much so that it was difficult to format and post them, let alone look at the comments. I totally fell down on the job of visiting other blogs and so forth, because I barely had the energy to drag myself off to my day job.

Then the monster grabbed my ankle.

My Mother In Law Is Still Sitting Between Us...
I had a friend, entangled  in a relationship similar to mine. I had been trying to gently encourage Sidney  (not hover or push, because that tends to have the opposite effect) to save herself for the last year or so, but I knew she had to do it in her own time and space.  Like my own ex, her boyfriend was/is not deliberately evil; there are mental health issues in play.  I knew all too well the emotional trap of, "He doesn't mean to say and do the things he does; he just can't help himself. And he is always really sorry."

Regardless of the "why" behind it, being at the receiving end of constant verbal and emotional abuse is degrading to the heart and soul. I could see in my friend the same drip, drip, drip of her spirit being eroded one nasty word at a time, that I once experienced.

I was becoming increasingly concerned for Sid's well-being, especially after she spent nearly a week in the hospital in late August. Note: her boyfriend did not physically put her there.  But she had been coping with the stress/anguish as many women (and men) do, by turning to an outside "thing": drink, food, drugs, sex, shopping, gambling. In her case, alcohol, and it was destroying her liver.  She finally confided, after she left the hospital this summer, that she knew if she didn't leave him, it would kill her. So she was making plans to leave.

So I thought, too, that the upcoming domestic violence subject would help solidify Sid's decision and prevent second thoughts, since she frequently read my blogs and I read hers.  Maybe I could help at least one person.

On September 20, she left him. The following weekend, her mother helped her get all her boxes unpacked. On the 22nd I got a chirpy e-mail from her: "I'm in my own place now!"

We met to chat and have a (non-alcoholic) drink a few days later.  Sid shyly invited me up to her new apartment. She was so proud, and happy.  Free of the toxic environment, looking forward to doing all kinds of things that had been restricted to her before. Like having company over!

She was also terribly thin and weak looking - though she did look better than she had in August right after she left the hospital.

I fussed over her a bit. Sid assured me she was following doctor's orders, on all kinds of supplements for her wonky potassium level. She reminded me that she was a grown woman, after all.

Over the next few weeks, we texted and FB'd each other back and forth almost every day. I called her a couple of times. It's such a fine line, wanting to be supportive, but not obsessively helicoptering, because, after all, she was a grown woman. And you can't help someone get over being in a controlling relationship by being controlling yourself.  Sid seemed to need her privacy, and I understood this, because in the first few months after leaving my ex, I too wanted to be left alone to lick my wounds without having to constantly explain how I felt to friends and family. Let me sort it out, and get back to you in my own time, okay? was how I felt.

Cue the monster. 

On Saturday, October 20, Sid went MIA. On the 21st, having been discovered passed out on the floor of her new apartment, she was in the hospital in critical condition.

There was no alcohol in her system. She'd apparently had a heart attack, sometime Friday night/Saturday morning, then a second one in the hospital on Sunday. Her small, thin, overstressed body did not have enough physical resources left to get her through.

On Monday, the 22nd, I was there with her parents and her ex when they took her off the respirator. She was beautiful and funny and vibrant and 43 years old.

I feel non-productively guilty, because I did think about calling her or texting her Friday night. But... I was hanging out with another girlfriend who I'd hadn't seen in forever, and I didn't want to be rude to the friend I was physically with, so I decided it wouldn't hurt to wait till the next day. If I had excused myself for five minutes and tried to contact Sid anyway, would it have made any difference?

Maybe, and maybe not. I do know that here is yet another time when I've overruled my gut instinct and later regretted it.  I do it - the overruling, instead than obeying my "gut" - a lot less frequently than I used to, yet I still do it. (Why, why?!) I know Sid would forgive me.  I know that it might have made no difference at all, and yet...

What I could and did do was help Sid's family have a nice memorial/celebration of life for her. Which was a big job in many ways, and yet feels like so little, so inadequate. I wanted to celebrate Sid's life with her, not after she died!

There are benefits to being broke, because that forces me to get up, wash my face, and get dressed every day, since I need the paycheck. But other than that, I've just wanted to watch TV, escape into books, eat, and sleep.  And cry.

It's painful being on the blogosphere without Sid, without being able to talk about each others' posts, to send each other links half a dozen times a day, "You've got to read THIS one!"  She was an expert Tweeter, and had promised to show me all the ins and outs of the beast I still can't manage well.  I am about to calendar our crit group's first meeting since, well, since, and remove her from the address book. That thought burns, probably why I've been putting it off.

I've dreamed about her; you know, that classic denial dream where the whole death thing was all a mistake. Just a big silly misunderstanding.

And then I wake up.

I know as time goes on, I will feel less overwhelmed. I totally appreciate that people understand so much more about grief, these days. Not getting too much of the "It's all for the best," or "Jesus wanted the prettiest flowers for his garden," well-meaning but non-helpful condolences we all used to get in the past.

For now, I don't much want to blog, or visit other blogs. Could be, shortly, I become the Mad Blogger all over again, with thoughts and emotions itching to be expressed in cyberspace, and that's okay, too. I am trying to give myself the time and space and support I would give to another friend going through the same loss.  To let myself feel sad, angry, bereft, guilty, helpless, betrayed, alone, confused, determined... to feel whatever I need to feel, in the moment, rather than trying to talk myself into feeling some other, "more acceptable" feeling.

So, if you've been visiting here over the past month, and thinking, WTH, why is that rude woman not following blog etiquette and visiting back?!  It's me, not you. I'm sorry; I know I've been very rude. I've actually visited some blogs back, and sat there, staring, unable to type a word. Right now I am emotionally clawing my way out of a dark, deep hole. But I will be back, and I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I do want to put out a plea - if YOU are in an emotionally abusive relationship (whether you're male or female), please don't wait until you are at the end of your rope to reach for help, or to leave. View any of the October posts here for links and phone numbers that can help you.
Enhanced by Zemanta