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Sunday, May 1

Reflections on a Hard Day


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This is a series of stories that is part of my own healing. I welcome you to read along, or not, but I'm going to write it anyway. I hope you take something good from it, and I hope I do too.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please call 1 (800) 273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Crisis Hotline, or call 911. Please know, admitting help is not a failure. Life can be beautiful, you just have to live it first.

My father’s memory has been in a slow, graceful and devastating decline over the past 10 years. It began with misplaced keys, lost wallets, forgetting to lock the door. And slowly, it became an all encompassing cloud; the inability to recognize his wife or children.

I struggle with a haunting sense of guilt. I feel like an abandoned child. He promised me once that he would never leave me. I couldn’t know as a child that there is more to a man than physicality, strong arms and the smell of coffee and cigarettes. My father was exuberant. He was funny. Social. Ill-tempered. Kind. A gentle father.

All of those things are gone now, or at least hidden behind an apathetic and confused visage.

My father, my Papa, who once greeted guests to our home with elaborate stories, fantastical jokes and jubilant songs on the piano, now sits in silence at the dinner table.

It kills me to know I may never hear him play piano again. I am guilted by knowing that I cannot remember the last time I heard him play. I couldn’t have known it was the last time. I didn’t make note to remember.

I notice moments when he struggles to say something but the words seem to be stuck somewhere in his mind. So, he signs instead.

He still smiles. He still has light in his eyes. He still manages to ask questions like, “Where are you going?” when I leave our house for home. He’s forgotten I haven’t lived there for years.

I don’t think he knows I’m married, though he greets my husband with familiarity. He has always been social with strangers. It is hard to decipher who he thinks is a stranger anymore.

I am a stranger to him sometimes.

I never got to talk to my dad about adult things, the way I am now doing with my mother. Sometimes I wish I could talk to him about going back to school and what I’m thinking about studying. Sometimes speaking to him feels like I am talking to a vacuum.

I feel like I am mourning him while he is still next to me, and I feel selfish for that, in the face of my husband’s own need to grieve over his father’s untimely death.

No one tells you adulthood will be like this. Grappling with the many deaths of relatives and friends all before the age of 30. I guess they think it’s not supposed to happen that way, but sometimes it does.

Is life just this?
All of the things you can’t remember
All of the terrible things you can
Trying to find something in the moment worth living for?

I struggle too with the realization that my father was just a man.

As a child, to me he seemed the strongest, the funniest, the most talented, the most liked of all his friends. He was a mystical creature to me. Brave, protective. Compassionate, loving.

He once came into my room before leaving for work. Saw I was crying and touched my back. He saw a box cutter I had hidden under my pillow. He began to cry too. I didn’t face him, but he took it silently. I like to think he told me he loved me, but I can’t clearly remember.

I feel guilty that my depression and mental illness has stolen moments from me; replaced memories between me and the ones I love, put in their place only darkness and isolation.

How can you make your mind remember a past thing differently?

If I should ever figure it out, it is all I shall do.

I hope my Papa knows how much I love him, how happy he made me. My father was 50 when I was born. His memory began to fade when I was about 19. I was a blip in his life. The past ten years have probably been a blur for him, as they have for me - in my own way.

Life is cruel sometimes, taking from you the only joys you feel you have ever had. I suppose the Human Experience is finding ways to move beyond that. Finding ways to be happy again.

Some days, happiness seems to never come.

I wait, then, for the rising of a new sun, in hopes the next day will be different.

I want to end this by saying that "recovery" has been difficult, tumultuous and at times hopeless. I still struggle with thoughts of suicide. Most days I can manage it. Some days it is debilitating, but I can manage to eat, read, or go somewhere to get my mind off of it. Some days I don't want to get out of bed. In truth, I have spent the majority of the past 15 years feeling this way. Though I am on medication now, it is difficult to know whether or not it is helping in any "meaningful" way. I had hoped the thoughts of suicide would disappear entirely, but I know now that this was naive.

I write this for any of you who are also struggling. I want you to know that not every day is easy. Most days are very difficult. I want you to know that because I don't want you to feel alone. I feel so terribly alone and isolated sometimes. Most times. If you can read this and feel at least some sense of relief that there is another person on Earth - in this Universe - that feels the same things you do, then I believe these blogs have been a success.

I hope you continue to find reasons to live.

Today, it is my husband, my family and Dunkin Donuts coffee.

Sending love your way. Love is all that saves me.


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