I Want It Back

I’m struggling this week. I know what happened to my joy. It was taken by mental illness. Years of living with someone else’s self-loathing was not good for my self-esteem. He took my joy, so much so that when a therapist asks me to think about things I used to enjoy, I picture the 20-something me exploring the country, living in New York City, so open to adventures and knowledge, and I look at her and I don’t know who she is.

I don’t know who I am anymore.

Anyway, I’m not going to go into details, but I will say that I’m trying, I really am, and this is a good time to try. I’m on break, and the yoga studio is, too. The kids are in school, though, so I’m stuck in town. I still need to drive them, cook, clean, etc. I’m even finishing up an article with a co-author. But in the midst of daily responsibilities, I steal time.

On Sunday I gave my bedroom a fairly thorough cleaning. It feels fresh and open and peaceful. I do some yoga on the floor everyday. I listen to Yoga Nidra meditation cd’s. I went to the public library and pulled a tote-bag-full of poetry from the shelves. I listen to music and read poetry at odd moments. I read Man’s Search for Meaning and connected with it more than an Irish-Catholic girl from the suburbs should. I consider this my own little retreat, captured for an hour or two in the morning, and again in the evening. I started journaling some of the nastier memories that I won’t talk about here. I unearth difficult memories, then when I do a Yoga Nidra session, I’m able to face them, with peace. I feel safe. I feel like I’m making progress. But this is difficult. It’s heartbreaking. It’s crappy. It’s unavoidable.

Apparently, achieving our New Normal will involve much more than me learning how to use a power screwdriver. I need to heal from his illness, in addition to coping with his death. It’s a horrible thing to do, to face the fraught life of this man I mourn and loved. I’ve been so protective of him. I protected him in his life, and I’ve continued to after his death. That has taken its toll on me, because I haven’t fully faced what his illness did to me. I have to face it now, because I need to wrest myself away from his illness, which still lingers in my bones, in broken things around the house. in my lack of self-esteem, in the absence of any self-worth. I need to wring it out of me. I need to feel that I’m worthy and really believe it. That’s not navel-gazing, that’s the basic stuff of survival, for me and these children.

I don’t really want my joy back, but I’m starting to accept that I should want my joy back, and I need to fight for it. Time to get tough, in the gentlest, yogic, mindful way. But that’s strength, too.


4 thoughts on “I Want It Back

  1. Do you write poetry as well as read it? I think the format and editing process of writing in such brief phrases really helps to draw the important emotions out from within. I write terrible, terrible stuff that will never see the light of day but it’s cathartic and therapeutically.

    My life experiences/husband’s death didn’t harm my self-esteem so you’ve got a harder row to hoe than me in that respect but I think all widows do go through a degree of having to find ourselves again. When we live with someone for so long it can be hard to separate who brought what strengths and weaknesses to the relationship and we have to decide what baggage we need to let go of before we can find us again. You’ll get your joy back in time. You’re working hard and it will pay off.


  2. It’s funny that you ask if I write poetry. I don’t, but in writing this journal, I found myself writing in bursts, sort of making lists, but really getting my ideas down in lines that looks like stanzas. I, too, fear that any poetry of mine wouldn’t be up to snuff, but it is, indeed, cathartic to get it out.

    Thanks for your support. Hard road, here! I feel bad for the kids, who don’t know why I’m down. I wish I could remove myself from society during these bouts so I could get through this without offending (or hurting!) people.

  3. That sounds really hard, a lot of complexity to work through. Tangles. Yet you have identified what it is that you are dealing with, a feat in itself. And you are working through it. I don’t doubt, that one day, you will be able to leave that which is no longer yours to carry, behind. From the outside, as an observer, based only on what I know from your blog, I see a strong, humorous, and gentle personality coming through, especially when you write about how you relate to your children….but clearing the path, the brambles of your loss, it is hard work.

    • Thanks to both of you. The journaling is helping. Distinct memories emerge during meditation, and I get them on paper afterward. I am extricating this stuff and getting it out. Now that it’s happening, it feels much more manageable than it did even a few days ago.

      My father died of cancer when I was a teenager. I remember that at the end he wasn’t himself, and he got a little mean. I stood at the edge of his bed and thought to myself, “That is not my father,” knowing it was the illness talking. I was able to have compassion and not feel hurt. With my husband, I didn’t know what was illness and what wasn’t until later, when it was all over, when I could see things quite clearly in retrospect. It was all muddled at the time.

      This is important work this week. Now I don’t feel bad at all about not being able to get away for spring break. I don’t want to carry this stuff around with me anymore. This is work I have to do and baggage I’ve got to unload. I’ll take a vacation later.

      And while it feels cruel to recall the bad things he did, I can already tell that getting it out of me is also removing it from him. I can already glimpse the man he was, when he wasn’t ill. I am hopeful that in the process of tearing down, I will find him, at his best, at the end of this terrible journey.

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