The Place I Don’t Like to Be

There is a cemetery in Southern Indiana that holds a grave I never thought I would see.

I know exactly where Jake’s grave is and every time I walk towards it, my heart breaks.

I’m not supposed to be here.

He’s not supposed to be here.

It took three years before I could come to his grave and not cry until my eyes swelled.

This is not where I want to be, but it’s where he is.

The Day We Didn’t See Coming

Nobody saw the events of September 1, 2015 coming. Even if any of us had consulted a crystal ball, this wouldn’t have been in it. I’ve looked back so often- even though Jake was quiet the last couple days before his death, this wasn’t on my radar.

I thought he had a lot on his mind, maybe a depressive episode.

If it had been, I would have done anything to stop him. All of us would have.

There are no words to fully explain how I got through hearing of Jake’s death. I’ve tried to describe it to those close to me, including my former therapist. Shattered is the only word that can even come close.

The Day After describes how I began the process of crawling forward with my life and how it is possible if you have had this sort of loss.

I didn’t attend anything after the funeral service because I was far too broken. I simply walked out to my car and drove home.

I spent days in bed, crying and drinking. I even spent my tenth wedding anniversary in bed- it was only 9 days after Jake’s death. Matthew let me be.

What?

Stay with me.

He knew that he had essentially broken me. Verbal and emotional abuse is no joke, and it will put you in a place that nobody should ever be in. Matthew is a bright man, but this wasn’t one of his better ideas.

He had changed.

I had changed.

That’s no excuse for what occurred.

He eventually realized that even though I had cheated on him and ran our marriage even further into the ground, Jake put me back together. Anyone who knows me well knows this.

There were days that I couldn’t see a way out of the darkness that I was living in. I ate and drank my way through my feelings. I gained weight and didn’t care.

I still don’t. I currently sit at 170. I don’t weigh myself unless I’m at a doctors appointment.

At one point, I became angry and mean. I’m not like that. I will become that way if pushed and even at this point, I still should have handled things better.

The Breaking Point

I began talking to Jake’s brother’s girlfriend, *Lauren. One discussion went terribly and to this day, we aren’t on speaking terms. I’m okay with this.

I am not, however, okay, with the fact, that it destroyed my friendship with Jordan. We are barely back on speaking terms. This took a lot of time, work on my end, and a bit of help from Sara.

I realized that I needed a bit more help to get past my grief. Raging, crying and eating clearly weren’t working.

I found a wonderful therapist and slowly began to see a bit of light. I worked on processing my grief in healthier ways- this blog is one result. I also worked my way through trust issues (I’m still picky about who I like), issues in my marriage, with my kids and some other personal things.

I highly recommend therapy in any form.

I even got sober while I was in therapy and my therapist was thrilled. When I started, she was almost ready to send me inpatient based on my drinking.

Seeing the Light Ahead

There are days that hurt- Jake’s birthday and today, September 1. I think it always will. This is okay. I refer to it as “The Day the World Went Away”, which is the title of a Nine Inch Nails song. He loved that band.

As four years have gone by, I try to remember what I’ve been able to accomplish. I remember that Jake would be so proud of me, or so I hope.

I’ve become a volunteer for the AFSP Out of the Darkness Community Walks. I’ve also done a couple of the college campus walks at the University of Louisville. In a way, it helps me carry on Jake’s (and my) love of helping others.

I figure if I can live through this, I can help others somehow. I cannot explain what a suicide loss is like. I just know that this is something that nobody should have to live through.

I have been outrageously lucky- support isn’t something that everyone has. Matthew didn’t have to be there, but he was. My best friends and family have been there since day one.

Josh, Jake’s other brother, has been one of the best supports I could ask for. I couldn’t have made it through the first two years without my former therapist. I may have ended up in jail and/or rehab.

I have a really bad mouth and back then, unchecked anger issues. The mouth hasn’t changed at all, but I’ve learned to manage my anger. My kids have noticed.

I may have kept drinking had my doctor not called with the fateful lab results.

Grief is one of the hardest emotions for a person to manage. One day can be great and you don’t think about the loss at all- the next, you’re sobbing over a memory.

” Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you”- “New Year’s Eve”, Taylor Swift

My short term memory is trashed, thanks to a mini-stroke shortly before meeting Jake. My long-term memory is intact, and I am grateful. This helps me hold on to the two years of memories.

Thanks to those memories, I’ve created two hashtags: #ForMySuperman and #SpeakNow

They are seen with many of my mental health/suicide related posts on social media. I’ve often referred to Jake as my Superman. Even though he wasn’t perfect and our situation definitely wasn’t, my life was better with him in it.

He saved me from myself sometimes, but even more, the world I was living in. For two years, he was always there for me. I could be myself again, I was able to breathe. I could be happy and not pushed into a corner.

Those memories have gotten ne through the last four years, the good and bad days. I don’t have any pictures of the two of us together, but Josh and Sara have helped me with a collection of pictures of Jake and even a few of his kids. His daughter looks just like him. Of course, she’s taller than me.

All of the pictures have been carefully saved- they’re all I have.

The last week of August and the first couple of days of September are hard for me. I try to do things for others during this time- it helps. I also try to take care of myself so that I don’t fall into a pile of tears.

Growth, Change and Happiness

Before I met Jake, there was another Jacob in my life, my grandfather. He died in May 2016, and it broke my heart. He was the first man in my life who really believed in me.

I called my Granddad “the sunshine of my life”. He gave great advice and had a great sense of humor.

It took over a year to finally feel like I was living again. This doesn’t mean I was fully healed and living my best life. It means I felt like I wasn’t stuck in a daily grief pattern.

I struggled to move past the anger that eventually came, sadness, and other emotions. I never went through the bargaining stage. I knew Jake wasn’t coming back.

I’m at the best I’ve been so far. I’m past 2 1/2 years sober, and every day still remains a challenge. If someone tells you that sobriety is a breeze, it’s a lie. I don’t sit in meetings or read the Big Book every day, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do the work.

Happy? Am I happy? Probably. I’m living the life that Jake made me strong enough to live. As long as I keep that promise to myself, I’ll be okay.

My kids are growing up and I’m attempting to figure out where I want to go next. A few years ago, they were smaller and I had all the plans in the world. I know what it’s like to have that ruined in a minute. I don’t like making long term plans.

I do know that I’m going to be okay no matter where life takes me. I’ve got three people watching out for me- my grandparents and of course, my Superman.

Pics courtesy of pinterest

Filling the Hole in Your Heart

Purple rose quote

There are times in which the people we think love us really don’t. Instead, they break our hearts in a number of ways.

We forget to love ourselves. We forget that we are worth love and even in a world that values relationships and marriage, we forget that it’s okay to be single.

I’m not single, but I would be okay if I were. Taking time to work on yourself may require you being single. Sometimes it doesn’t.

The love that you have for yourself can make up for the love that others don’t have or show for you. It hurts. It’s not pretty to realize that people that you love may not love you back or even in the way you want them to.

This missing love can leave a bit of a hole, an emptiness in your heart. Fill it with happiness, good times and love. This will carry you through the harder times.

The Words Left Unsaid

Regret is a terrible thing. I’ve lived with it and even with therapy, the feelings stick.

You can work through the feelings, but the situation itself remains.

Hands

So Close But Yet So Far

What hurts the most

Is being so close

Having so much to say

And watching you walk away” –

What Hurts the Most”, Rascal Flatts

It can be difficult to express your feelings with someone that you care about, for a variety of reasons. Fear is a beast that can keep you from doing what you need to the most.

What if I say how I really feel?

Does this change everything?

Will he/she freak out?

The closer you get to say these things, the bigger the questions get.

The Words Left Behind

I wanted so badly to tell Jake that I loved him, along with years’ worth of other things. “I love you” just happened to be at the top of the list.

I just didn’t. I was afraid.

I knew he cared a lot about me- but love? I couldn’t tell. He wasn’t a fan of commitment and I was aware that he had other women in his life, so I really struggled with the idea of saying this.

Things were about to change between us as it was- when he died, I was a week from filing for a divorce. I didn’t know what would happen next, but I was worried that putting too much on him emotionally would push him away.

We hung out a week before his death and there was one moment that I felt it was finally okay, and for some reason, I told myself, “Nah, next time. This isn’t it.”

There wasn’t a next time.

The next time I saw Jake besides work was his visitation.

Sad

Dealing With the Leftovers

I realized that I wouldn’t be able to tell him how I felt. This crushed me. I would never know how he really felt about me.

While sitting with Jordan at the visitation, I asked him if he thought Jake died knowing how much I cared about him.

“I think he knew. He really cared about you.”

Jordan has no idea how much that has helped heal my heart. I had a hard time figuring out how Jake truly felt about me sometimes and this has always stayed in my heart.

His words helped me come to terms with not fully knowing how Jake felt about me, along with therapy.

But how would I deal with what I didn’t get to say?

I wrote.

Of course. It’s the main way I deal with things.

I wrote in an online journal, in a letter from, like I was talking to Jake as I wrote. This helped immensely through my grief process.

Letting Go of the Words

How do you let go of the things you don’t get to say?

A few tips:

  • Just say it. Saying three small words would have saved me a lot of heartbreak. I could have gotten hurt afterward but at least I wouldn’t have the regret. I’ve often said on social media to not hold back and say how you feel.
  • Don’t hold it inside. If something happens and you are truly unable to tell the person what you need to, don’t hang onto it. This might set you up for emotional distress.
  • Write a letter and then destroy it. This can help you get the feelings and thoughts out, then you can let them go (safely)
  • Talk to someone. Verbally expressing your feelings can be extremely helpful, whether this is a friend, family member or even a therapist.
  • Distract. Sometimes our brains like to mess with us – either with “what-if” thoughts or replaying the situation repeatedly. Finding a good distraction, like music, cleaning, or even a funny movie can help.

We can’t fully avoid things we regret, as much as we would like to. We can, however, try our best to deal with it in a healthy way. This can also help with words left unsaid.

Men and Mental Health

As kids, most boys were told not to cry. They were told to be tough, to be “real men”, and those men didn’t cry and show emotions. They hid their feelings, no matter the cost.

This piece of advice has had terrible consequences, leading to high substance abuse rates, violence against women and children (among others) and other issues. When you can’t let out your feelings in a healthy way, it tends to come out badly. It also leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety and lack of self-care.

Why Men Don’t Seek Help

Everyone needs to take care of themselves, physically and mentally. This is a well-known fact. Men have a harder time acknowledging this because of the stigma they face in doing so. This will be covered in a later post, so stay tuned, but here are a few examples of what many men fear when going for help:

  • Being labeled as “weak”, “sick”, or any number of labels.
  • Having to be vulnerable. I can say from personal experience that starting therapy is rough. You are opening up with some of your worst demons to someone you just met..many men (and women) are not having it.
  • Being judged by those who know that they are getting help.

This information is in The Stigma of Mental Illness

Untreated mental illness can also lead to suicide, which has a higher rate in men, and men usually use more lethal means.

This fact breaks my heart each time I read it. Suicide in itself is heartbreaking and has far-reaching consequences.

As a mom, I’m teaching my kids that it’s okay to cry. My sons know it’s okay to have emotions. In light of numerous teen suicides in the news and those that I have lost to suicide personally, I feel a huge responsibility to watch out for my kids’ mental health. It’s HARD to be a kid these days.

Cameron started taking daily naps when he started middle school, and at first, I thought it was a phase. Then I worried about his heart because his SVT is pretty severe and can tire him out easily.

He told me that he felt fine, that school was just tiring him out. My next question was if anything was bothering him, and thankfully, he said no. Cameron is a pretty chill kid, but you never know.

Julian is pretty quiet, but he knows where Mom is if he needs to talk. So does Lily, but she is NOT the quiet type. The point of this is, please talk to your kids, no matter how rough it may be. Just check in.

What can we do for the men in our lives?

  • Check in with them. Especially if something major has happened to them recently- a death in the family, job loss, etc.
  • Be gentle. Most men facing a mental health issue don’t want to be forced into talking. Matthew’s parents divorced a few years ago, and there was a lot of drama involved. He’s not a huge talker, so I had to let him talk about it at his own pace.
  • Encourage him through whatever he does, if anything. If he decides to seek help, he needs to know you’re behind him 100%.

Of course, if things are going downhill quickly, please seek immediate help. You can go to the nearest ER or call 911.
Resources:

AFSP

Psychology Today

NAMI

If you are more comfortable seeking help online, this BetterHelp link will be helpful for Michigan residents, but the entire site is full of good information.

Humor Helps the Pain

Everyone has their own defense mechanisms- ways of dealing with things that they may not like or want to push to the side. These mechanisms keep us from having to deal with unpleasant feelings like sadness, anger, confusion, etc.

Trying to Shift the Hurt

Humor can be a defense mechanism for many of us. I am guilty of this. I use humor, mainly sarcasm, a lot, to cover up for when I am sad, hurt or feeling otherwise not so great. I may not want to face how I am feeling at the moment. I may not want to show the person that might have hurt my feelings that they did so. I’m not the best at doing this. I tend to feel guilty- it comes from my past with Matthew.

He would get angry when I would even show a hint of being upset at anything he said or did that would upset even the hardest of women. I learned to hide it all, at the expense of my mental health.

I didn’t laugh my way through being emotionally abused, because that’s impossible, but there are other facial expressions for it. It became a regular thing to hide my sadness, pain or being offended. This is still present for me. I don’t think it will ever fade. Even if I had left, this would linger.

Using humor allows me to remain the funny person that everyone knows me to be and not fall into the deep hole of depression that I desperately want to stay out of.

It doesn’t take a lot sometimes, and there are times that I don’t know what will bring me out of it. It lets me keep going when I might just stop otherwise. If I stop and start crying, when would I stop? This question does not have an easy answer.

In the Spotlight

Many comedians/comediennes began using humor to cope as kids due to tragedies and/or bad childhoods. Making other people laugh helped them feel better plus it was a great distraction for them from whatever they had going on in their lives.

Some comedians also have mental health issues and this helps them cope, for example, the late Robin Williams. I was sincerely crushed by his death. I still get sad watching “Aladdin” and “Mrs. Doubtfire”.

I didn’t have the best or worst childhood, but genetically, I hit the jackpot when it comes to humor. I have two older sisters, and I’m the funniest out of the three of us. My mother is hilarious and so was my grandfather. My dad lacks a sense of humor- he’s a bit like Eeyore from “Winnie the Pooh”.

I’m not sure when my sarcasm blossomed, but it’s been around as long as I remember. Cameron has picked up on it, and even though he was a little late, so has Julian. Dry humor is his thing. Their childhoods have been miles better than mine so they’re just funny because they can be.

There is a reason we like to watch funny movies or YouTube videos when we are sad- it takes our minds off whatever it is that’s bothering us. We need a distraction.

I have watched “Horrible Bosses” countless times because it’s funny and I know almost all of the lines. I also know that Charlie Day uses the Epi-Pen incorrectly but yet it’s still comedic. I still yell “OMG THAT’S NOT HOW YOU USE IT!” at the screen each time I see it. (I’m First Aid trained, and while I have never had to use an Epi-Pen, I hope I never have to.)

Laughing makes us feel better, even if it’s only for the length of a movie, song or 6-minute video. The phrase “Laughter is the best medicine” is true. It can truly lift your spirits.

How do you get a laugh when you are sad? Do you use defense mechanisms? How do you try to not use them?