It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Last episode’s cliffhanger saw me in the aftermath of panic attack number 691, dashing to the A&E department of a local hospital, and not dealing with the loneliness and emotions that Trisha’s death has left me with. What’s been going on in the two months since? Well…
I’ve had a bit of a health scare. I found a lump where a bloke isn’t supposed to find extra lumps, which didn’t do wonders for my stress and anxiety. To tell you the truth, it sent me into orbit with worry. I started thinking that stress had manifested itself into a physical symptom. Just as I was beginning to think in terms of being able to start my life again, here was something serious that was going to curtail it all. Fuck my luck. Or some self-pitying shit like that.
I did the sensible thing and got it looked at. Nothing sinister. Or on the right. So, I can stop that nihilistic train of thought.
In other news, I’ve also started bereavement counselling sessions offered by the hospice where Trisha spent her final days. I’m half way through the sessions and I’m finding them to be a real help. When I first spoke with the counsellor on a one-to-one basis, I admitted to still being in a state of hyper-vigilance. I’m not overtly jumpy because I have a long-standing defence mechanism.
When people are confronted with someone who’s radiating anxiety, their initial reaction tends to be to withdraw from that person, so as not to be affected or have to deal with it. I don’t want people to withdraw from me, so I’ve learnt to mask how I feel, mainly because I don’t want to be judged negatively by anyone (this has been a thing with me since childhood, but I’ll not go into that just now), but, apparently, what I was saying to the counsellor showed signs of a high level of anxiety. Always on a hair trigger, waiting to react to some kind of threat.
However, over the past two or three weeks, I’ve noticed that I’ve changed a little. I’m less inclined to race from zero to 100 in terms of anxiety. I don’t know whether this is due to the sessions, the relief following my health scare or other parts of my life that are positive. This isn’t to say that my antennae don’t go off every now and then, but I’m not jumping at the slightest noise.
When Trisha was still here, I would constantly monitor everything for the slightest change: Trisha’s bodily reactions, my body, external sounds, even smells. The tiniest thing would trigger me. This change can only be a good thing, but, since I can’t yet put a finger on the reason why, I don’t know if it’s temporary or permanent.
Something else that’s come to light is my tendency to see everything I do as either perfect or shit. There’s no in between. There’s no OK. I constantly look for things within myself that I can improve to ensure that I appear ‘normal’ to the outside world (and make sure they don’t want to withdraw from me). All things to all people. Physically more attractive, more personable, better at this, able to do that. All the while thinking that I wasn’t good enough.
It was the same with caring for Trisha. Perfect or shit. Perfect meant she was still alive and well; the opposite meant…well…the opposite. I still struggle with this. I always assumed – wrongly, I realise now – that if I did my bit, if I did my best to provide Trisha with the care she needed, she’d stay alive and well. I saw it as being my job to keep her alive. As she worsened, I’d try harder, try to eliminate all my defects, as I saw them.
See where this is going? I tied myself in knots, emotionally, trying to achieve something that was impossible. I couldn’t have made a difference, no matter how hard I tried or what ‘improvements’ I made to myself. Even writing this last sentence doesn’t stop the little voice in me which tells me to look for the defect that led to Trisha dying, and improve it. I am trying to be a little more self-accepting.
This outlook is affecting how I’m looking at the future. For all intents and purposes, I have a blank canvas. But, because of the perfect/shit self-judgement, I’m scared of making errors – what if I move to a house I don’t like? Or an area I’m not happy living in. Do I return to study? What if I don’t like it? What if I pick the wrong subject? I know, I’m scared. I’m scared of failing and making an error. I’m working on it. I knew I needed some help and the counselling sessions have confirmed that. I still have three one-to-one sessions left and I can go to group sessions for the next year or so.
I’m also aware that the first anniversary of Trisha’s death is looming. In a couple of weeks, it’ll be a year since Trisha was taken into hospital with swallowing difficulties. I have no idea how this is going to go. I may feel like writing a little more over the coming weeks, I might want to withdraw. Either way, I will keep trying to better deal with things.