Wednesday, July 05, 2006

All Depression and No Sleep Makes Todd Something Something

"Go crazy?"
"Don't MIND if I do!!"

Skipping ahead from the Simpsons reference, one of the reasons I have not posted in the last several days is that I've not been getting more than 3 to 4 hours sleep at night. Part of it is depression. When Samantha and I were together, one of the things we did was put up with each other - I think that's a certain percentage of every relationship. You put up with each other's quirks and foibles. I put up with her explosive temper, and she put up with my "artistic temperament", by which of course I mean bipolar swings. Oh yes. That particular condition is pretty common in the general public, and my family is a little cutaway view.

In the months after our marriage counseling in 2000, I decided to see a shrink - just to get a few things ironed out and refine my toolkit for being a productive partner. What came out of those few sessions were: 1) clarity of the behavior patterns on both sides of my family; 2) a diagnosis of "mild bipolar disorder".

Fortunately, the shrink recommended I not seek a pharmaceutical remedy. By his reasoning, I had a mild form of the condition, meaning my highs and lows were slightly higher and lower than the average joe. He also said that because I'd demonstrated throughout my life the ability to "ride the lows" and "capitalize on the productive energy of the highs", medication in my case would only dull the extremes and serve to neuter my artistic insight. I believe great art is born of extremes - some of the greatest minds in history weren't quite right.

But this also means that after I lost my wife and father so close together, my depressive swings throughout the grief process tend to be lower than normal (but since there's truly no "normal" in grief, that and four bucks will buy you a latte).

So for the past week, I've simply been treading water - dealing with the immediate needs of the kids, the contractors, and my family and friends. The rest of the time I'm pretty dead inside. Some people sleep a lot when they're depressed. I wish that were my case. But it's not. I sulk, stew and get really quiet. In the past, "down" times like this have inspired some of my best creative concepts. But this time, the "down" is mostly focused on feeling isolated.

If we were in our own house, it would be better.

If dad were here, it would be better.

If Sam were alive and healthy, it would be better.

Or so the depression says. I take it with a grain of salt. Nothing that goes on in my brain during these cycles do I take 100% seriously. It's all part of the process, and eventually things will be more in-balance.

So last night, for the first time in over a week, I got 7 hours of sleep. And I had what was probably the second most disturbing dream about Sam (the first being detailed in the So Long and Goodnight entry). Keep in mind we've lived in the same house in the same neighborhood since early 1995, and have seen a lot of development occur to the local area in the past 11 years. So I was not surprised to find myself standing in a composite setting of the Westwood parking lot between the BofA and the Staples, mixed with a bunch of downtown Renton of all places (we did live in Renton for our first year and a half in Washington, before moving to West Seattle in 1992).

So I'm there, looking around at the different construction, marveling at how different everything looks from my vantage point. And suddenly Sam is approaching me, healthy, 30-ish, worried look on her face, arms outstretched in a hug. I put up my hands and turn away. I can't face her again. She's dead, damnit, and this isn't fair. She's giving me that concerned cooing she usually did to calm me down when I was upset - the shushing, the "it's okay honey", all of it. And I'm trying to be strong and turn away through a veil of tears. "Please don't," I protest. "You're dead. I can't do this again. It hurts too much."

And she comes right up to me and wraps me in a soft embrace, and I feel my defenses crumble. I melt into her arms. "I'm so sorry," she whispers in my ear. "I'm so sorry, baby." She cradles my face in her hands and touches her forehead to mine. "I love you. I'm so sorry." She keeps repeating it over and over.

She mentions someone else being responsible, but responsible for what, I'm not sure. It seemed to have to do with the cancer, an earlier diagnosis and/or different treatments. Coulda-woulda-shoulda stuff. It's a dream - it rarely makes rational sense. And by that point, I feel too overwhelmed to make any rational sense of anything. The end.

These things always make me feel like I've taken a huge step backward in letting go. But I guess now is a good time for any of that to go on, since I'm not dating or in a relationship. It could be disastrous later.

I'm not sure this makes any sense, and it really doesn't matter - this blog is primarily my catharsis, and secondarily a touchstone for others. Speaking of which, I would like to thank those people who have emailed me, widda and non-widda alike. It feels good to know you appreciate what I write here, and some of you can identify with the path I walk.

A non-blogging widda friend (who shall remain anonymous) recently wrote me to express her current state, and I could really identify with this piece:

"I go through each day with a mask on. I throw fake smiles at everyone, I drone into the mindless chatter with co-workers and people have actually said that they admire my strength and I feel like screaming at the top of lungs because I don't have it together, I am broken and I fear this will be my fate until the grave finally accepts this carcass known as my flesh, because the spirit seems to have already abandoned me..."

This really sums up loss and the grief process. There's a lot of fear involved. A lot of unknowns. And sometimes the best we can do is to be there for (and lean on) one another. Just keep moving - in any direction. Because movement - in any direction - is still movement. Grief is a cyclical beast. There are no whys and hows. It just is, and you take the experience and hope you become a stronger human being for having it.

Be well.


JenniferJaneD said...

I am one of your grateful readers!
I always appreciate your writings (uh... minus the Star Trek and X-men and the way you share of yourself.
I LOVE reading your Blog. Thank you.
You have given me insight into a widowers grief and a single dads journey (which directly relate to my circumstances), but also made me even more aware of my "Jesus complex". HAHA!! My want to save others. I used to dive in to relationships in my 20's hoping to help the guy. DUMB. I learned though, and have not done that in my 30's. But I'll tell ya, when I read your blog, all I want to do is comfort you or be there for you, and I don't even know you!! CRAZY. I am not sure why I am like that. Maybe you are nothing like I think you are :) ...but I believe you are one great person.
As far as fear of the unknown...I can relate to that. But I look at it as excitement for the unknown. So many awesome things could be coming your way. Change can be awesome and exciting. I hope you find that.

Diana said...

I may need to be more extreme in my mood swings, and that might help my painting. I've been going through major art-analysis lately (rejection seems to do that to me), and since I'm FAIRLY even keel, I think that means my art is lukewarm. I don't know that it MEANS anything, you know?

Anyway, dreams like that are tough, and you are so right, good that it doesn't come when you are in a new relationship or something. Guilt is easy enough to come by without that adding to it. Not that it won't, it's just that at least this wasn't your first time.
Take care, Todd. Diana(d) (wn)

Durandal said...

Hey there. Stumbled across your blog in my Referrer stats.

I decided to post a comment because of the dream you wrote about. I haven't gone through anything like you have, but I do recognize how dreams can feel like an unfair blow below the belt: you think you're getting over it and then bam, you're down in the kitchen cursing yourself for being so susceptible to having dreams, trying to shake the feeling.

It's always been like that after bad fights with partners, breaking up, that sort of thing. It would be nice not to have to deal with them.

Anyway, best of luck with all that.