Sunday, August 17, 2014

the good and the bad

Yesterday I met two friends at White Clay for a little exploration on our cross bikes...
I'm so thankful to have found my place within a community that shares a common thread; quite simply the love of the ride.
I haven't felt like being on my bike, I haven't found much solace in the act of moving lately...on foot, on two wheels, at all.
I needed to be coaxed out of my funk, if only for a few hours, to move with the power of my own body...
to puzzle out my worries and despair in the woods among the company of good people.
I found myself enjoying and remembering the strength in my legs and my lungs.
It felt good.
I felt good.

Predictably, today, I found myself way back down.
Like, way way back down.
I encouraged Bill to get out for a few hours on his bike, as he's been doing nothing but taking care of me, taking care of us. Tirelessly and without complaint.
"Go ride, I'll be fine."
Moments after he left, I looked at our daughter and thought, "how do I do this?"
We busied ourselves with Sesame Street and Legos and story books.
I can handle that.
I can read The Shape of My Heart and Corduroy's Busy Day all day long.
I felt bad when she grabbed her sandals and headed to the front door, "Side! Side?" {outside}
"Not right's drizzling. Maybe later."
In truth, I usually love to take her out in the rain, but I just didn't have the energy. Or the interest.
I hate being this way when it comes to my kids because I feel like I am ripping them off.

Bill came home, Maeve was no worse for the wear, and I had managed to avoid any tears myself.
Doing this.

This evening, after dinner, I drove to the cemetery alone.
I sat at the foot of my mom's grave and talked to her.
I read "The Owl & The Pussycat," to her (my mom's favorite childhood poem).
I asked her questions and apologized for being a mess.
I pleaded, "please come see me in my dreams sometime..."

Her final resting place is such a serene, beautiful spot.
As I drove away, playing one of her favorite songs in my car with the windows down, a tiny fawn made its way across the path from behind a tree.
Healthy, young, and alive.
It made me smile.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

a breakdown of sorts...

Several months before my mom passed away, I decided it would be in my best interest (and my family's best interest) if I sought help for some feelings of depression that I had been experiencing.
I told my husband that I was thinking of talking to a therapist, that I needed to work through some stuff that had been building...that an inexplicable sadness was overtaking me, overwhelming me.
I am no stranger to these feelings, yet I have always struggled with reaching out for help.
I've become quite "good" at pushing through and sucking it up...
I've become quite good at recognizing depression within myself, yet I've often tricked myself into thinking a series of hard rides or challenging runs or a stint in the yoga studio will absolve me of depression.
While those "tools" are certainly helpful and healthy outlets, those strategies aren't always enough on their own.
I kept putting off seeing a therapist. I continued to ride/run/move...busy myself with my kids...busy myself with tasks and activities.
Then, my mom died and the distractions felt like work.
My kids and my husband were getting the worst of me and I knew it was time to make the dreaded call.
I began seeing a therapist weekly and shortly thereafter began taking a low dose antidepressant under the care of my family doctor.
I felt better knowing I was moving in a healthier direction.
I have limited experience with antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds; I have taken them in the short term over the years and realize they are something I will likely need sometimes throughout my life to pull me out of times like this. When the sadness is bigger than me. When the sadness robs me of things that normally bring me comfort and joy.
I do regret, wholeheartedly, never having talked to my mom about this because she struggled with depression, herself.
The difference is, she never hid it from us.
I was always afraid to share my own struggles with her because I didn't want to burden her.
I didn't want her to consider for one second that it could be remotely her fault in some way, as depression has genetic components and runs in families (and wow, was/is it rampant in her family).
That's ridiculous, right??
I know she wouldn't have judged me, I know she could have offered some insight...we could have commiserated. My mom was such a compassionate, understanding woman...I could talk to her about anything, but was always so afraid of disappointing her (or either of my parents for that matter...remember when it took me nearly six MONTHS to tell them I was getting divorced?? I can almost laugh about that now...)
She would have done anything to help me.
I know that.

I never talked to either of my parents, or really anyone close to me about my anxiety or depression.
I touched on it during bad bouts of insomnia or when I was going through my divorce...but, I never said the word. I never admitted that I was diagnosed or had any treatment.
Part of me was afraid it would be dismissed as me not being able to handle my shit...again, ridiculous, right?
As a parent myself, I want my children to know they don't have to hide anything from me and that if they need help, I will never judge or question it or assume that they just can't cope with rough times.
My sadness, my depression, is not circumstantial or reactionary.
It comes and goes in inexplicable waves; sometimes it hits hardest when everything is in place, when everything is fine.

This time, I happened to be in the midst of it when my mom died...
So, yeah, the timing sucked.
I've been dutifully taking my meds (adjusting to my meds, which is always a challenge) and seeing my therapist.
I'd been feeling productive...functioning.
Then, Sunday night, I had a breakdown of sorts.

I woke up at midnight (per the norm) feeling extremely agitated and anxious (not the norm). 
While I've spent many nights over the past six or so weeks not sleeping through the night, this was a completely different and hopeless feeling.
I felt more panicked and rage-y than I'd ever felt.
I woke Bill and upon describing what I was feeling, it seemed as though I was talking about somebody else.
I felt scared, distrustful, paranoid...
I couldn't discern what was real and what was a dream...
Physically, I was sweating and shaky.
Mostly, I was just frightened and wanted to escape or short, I felt...crazed.
By Monday morning, I wouldn't leave my bed.
I know there were phone calls to my family doctor and my therapist. Much of Sunday night was a blur and I continued to just lay in bed...staring out the window.
Ignoring the sounds of my kids starting their day.
I left my bed to take a bath and use the bathroom and spent the rest of the day and night hiding from my family in my room.

Tuesday night, at the urging of my doctor, Bill took me to see a psychiatrist.
We talked about some background information.
We talked about my "history"...about my family...about my mom's death...about my brother.
"What do you hope to get out of this?"  he asked.
"I just...want to be able to function more fully to better take care of myself and my kids."

I know there is no quick fix.
As we walked out of his office, I couldn't help feeling defeated knowing I would still be the same the next morning. And the morning after that. And so on...
That's the hardest part.
There are times when bad shit happens and I can just put one foot in front of the other, face the day, do what needs to be done...move forward.
This time, it is bigger than me, though.
If I could put one foot in front of the other, face the day, do what needs to be done...move forward...
I would.

I asked Bill, in frustration, "What makes me not able to just get through something without all this 'help', without all these concessions? How come some people don't 'have' this?"
He said, "That's like asking why all people don't look the same."

I've been here before and I'll be here again...
and the best thing to have come out of this is that I don't feel like it's something I need to hide anymore.



Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Awww, Maeve

I just sneezed and she said, "bless you," clear as a bell (well, clear to me).
The words are just spilling out of her little mouth like crazy these days.
19 months is such a curious, exciting age.

Monday, July 21, 2014

so it goes

We spent last week in Ocean City, New Jersey (the seashore of my childhood) with my dad.
What was supposed to be a long-awaited family vacation with all of us turned out to be a well-timed distraction and diversion following my mom's passing.
Although the week was fraught with some rough spots (mainly sleepless nights due to Maeve's ear infection), we fell into an easy rhythm of hot donuts in the morning, days spent on the beach, and nights on the boardwalk or sitting on the deck as the sun went down.

Reality hit hard this morning as Bill went back to work and I faced a heavy case of the Mondays on my own with the kids.
(you'll rarely hear me complain about Monday as a stay-at-home me, I love this full time gig more than any "job" I've ever had)
This is week four.
Week one was a blur of arrangements and duties that needed to be carried out.
Week two was collecting myself and getting back into our regular groove, with Max at day camp and plenty of trouble for me and Maeve to get into together.
Week three was our family vacation. Though bittersweet without my mom, I really did my best to be present and just enjoy my kids and give them a fun escape.
Week four is now.
Week four has started out on a low note.
Maeve had a horrendous night, as I am guessing the antibiotics are taking a toll on her system and she woke up wailing and flailing every fifteen to twenty minutes.
At 4:55am, my alarm (needlessly) roused me (I'd hardly slept anyway) for the Spinning class I've been teaching twice a week since February.
This was my first class back since my mom died and I'd been wholeheartedly dreading it, almost to the point of full blown panic.
Something about enthusiastically commanding a room packed with strangers first thing in the morning scared the shit out of me now.
Reluctantly, I showed up, went through the motions and lied, "It's great to be back. Breaking a sweat with you guys definitely helps."
I think I'm done with that.
We'll see...

Bill left for work as the sun came up and from there I pretty much lost it.
As Maeve blessedly, finally slept for a bit, I cowered in my room, sobbing uncontrollably and wondering how I'd get through today.
Max asked, "Is it because of Grammy?"
"Yes. I'm just really sad today."
And confused and angry and bewildered and lonely and frustrated and really, REALLY tired...

After a long shower, I got the kids ready and took them to breakfast.
We ate outside and Maeve, the mayor of West Chester, cheerfully waved to each and every passerby and pointed to every truck.
Max had a bowl of cereal and "double bacon" while I drank coffee and pushed the eggs around my plate like a petulant child.
Now what??

After breakfast, we stopped at the cemetery to say hi to Grammy.
Maeve bounded right up to her grave and started waving emphatically, which Max obviously got a kick out of and we were both like, "Awwwww..."
We straightened up the little birdhouses that sit alongside the rock that serves as a temporary marker and made our way down the path, stopping to pick some raspberries (relax, the berries weren't anywhere near sacred ground) and marvel at some of the really old headstones.

And that was that.
I mean, that's what we do on a typical summer Monday morning when nothing is on our agenda...
We have breakfast and go see Grammy.
Just like always.

I didn't even think of it that way until we were on our way back home.  



Saturday, July 12, 2014

what happened anyway? (and two weeks later)

I kind of feel the need to say what happened, as far as why my mom died.
She was admitted to the hospital on Monday June 23rd for a seemingly innocuous (though, serious) infection.
She went from sitting up, looking cute and joking with the nurses streaming in and out of her room about being "such a pain in the ass," to being flown to the Hospital at the University of Penn Thursday afternoon as her condition worsened.
On Thursday, the doctors insisted my dad go home and get some rest, as the next few days were expected to be a bit rough.
Again, her condition was serious, but not necessarily critical. We were told to "remain positive."
2am Friday night/ morning, my dad was called and alerted to the fact that my mom's heart rate had spiked and her blood pressure was continuing to drop.
By 3am on  Friday, my dad and I were in her room on the 9th floor at Penn after a quiet, nervous drive into the city.
I was struck by the vast array of monitors, equipment and countless bags of fluid hooked up to my mom.
I was struck by the number of doctors and nurses constantly assessing my mom, confounded by how quickly the infection was ravaging her system.
We were told she was the sickest patient on the unit.
Mostly, I was struck by my mom's appearance.
Just days before, she had been wide eyed and alert.
Now, she was unconscious; heavily sedated, intubated, "sleeping" to the hum of a dialysis machine and ventilator.
On rounds that morning, I sat in as the team of specialists, residents, and all manner of medical personnel conferred about my mom.
We called upon some family members (mostly her brothers and sister, my aunt, and my best friend) urging them to come see my mom, though at that point it didn't seem or feel like we should (or would) be holding vigil at her bedside, willing her to hang on and turn a corner.
I called Graterford Prison that morning and explained the situation to somebody who would hopefully get in touch with my brother sooner rather than later.
I pleaded, "It's quite serious. Please, please let him call my mom."  

Around 9am, my mom was relieved of some of the sedation and she opened her eyes.
Unable to speak because of the breathing tube, she held my hand and my dad and I encouraged her to be tough, be strong.
I lied, sensing the worst, "Rob is on his way, mom."
She was getting sicker, quite literally, by the minute.

By 11am, the head doctor (Anoop, who was easily younger than me and so incredibly compassionate), explained to us that my mom would succumb to cardiac arrest at any time.
Not if. When.
Essentially, she was on life support and at that point we needed to make the decision to let her go peacefully and without pain.
I don't mean for any of this to sound clinical or cold.
These are the facts and I just feel the need to explain it and remember it, fully.
Everything had progressed (degraded, I guess is the better choice of word) so quickly and I just couldn't believe my dad and I were faced with making that unimaginable decision, together, in that moment.

I never said goodbye, I never said, "it's okay to let go," or any of that bullshit, because quite honestly,
it wasn't okay to let go.
It was such a short and fierce fight and my mom was not ready to die.
All I could do was say I loved her and to just relax. I didn't want her to be scared.

My dad and I were together with her the whole time.
As the nurse, Priscilla, deftly and quietly removed the tubes and tape and silenced the monitors, I just laid my head by mom's side and felt her cool skin (she was hypothermic due to such low blood pressure).
It wasn't long at all that she took her last breath upon being taken off life support, which gave me some strange measure of relief.
Relief knowing it was the best thing we could do for her because clearly she wasn't coming back from this awful, awful ordeal.
My dad spoke to her the entire time and I know she didn't feel alone.

The prison chaplain let my brother call, but it was a half hour too late.
My mom had already passed and my dad held the phone up to her ear and Rob talked.

My mom was not sickly.
I've had a hard time reconciling the well meaning sentiment, "She's no longer suffering, take comfort in that..." because she wasn't suffering, she hadn't been sick.
Certainly not sick enough through any of this that her death was so imminent.
It all happened so shockingly quickly.

My mom was diagnosed with Hepatitis almost fifteen years ago.
She recently completed a new regimen of medication that finally cured her.
The virus was gone from her system and her liver was showing signs of improvement.
Over the years, she had fought the illness and in the end, actually beat it.
Back in May, my mom received a magnesium infusion under the advisement of one her specialists who had been closely following her labs.
After that infusion, my mom was hospitalized for an infection (possibly in her stomach, though never confirmed).
The month between that incident and this most recent event left her tired and wanting desperately to bounce back and get on with life.
My heart aches knowing she had so much more left to do and look forward to.

So, that's what happened (disjointed little back story and all).
My mom had not been "sick"; her death had nothing to do with liver failure or (directly, at least) the Hepatitis.
Again, a stupid, persistent infection likely resistant from that stupid infusion back in May.
If anything, maybe her situation will help save somebody else from this tragic outcome.

My mom was young and witty and goofy and beautiful.
In short, just the best.

Yesterday marked two weeks since her death.
Mostly, it still doesn't feel real to me.
Part of me still believes she's going to call me (and I'll be in the shower, like so many mornings, and she'll leave that same message, "It's just me, Talk to you sooooon.")...

I'm sad that my kids don't have their Grammy anymore, that Maeve won't get to grow up with her and that Max lost one of his best, best buddies.

I'm sad that it's not Bob & Mare anymore...I mean, not in the flesh.
Bob and Mare Bob and Mare Bob and Mare...all my life.

I just miss her. 



Friday, July 4, 2014

Already one week

This time last week, I was holding my mom's hand as the morphine drip started.
How has it been a week already?
We laid her to rest yesterday, following the most beautiful celebration of her life and our life with her.
I woke up this morning and felt sad...maybe the saddest I have felt all week.
I grabbed my running shoes and made my way over to Downingtown's Good Neighbor Day with Bill & Maeve.
My mom was a runner for a long time when I was a kid.
Not a "runner" like me, she was legit.
I've never ran more than 5 miles, but I knew I could finish the 10k today, tired legs and all.
It felt good to sweat it all out and move.
For the last mile, I just imagined myself breathing in all her youthful energy. 
(which obviously made me burst into tears not a minute after crossing the finish line...I'm sure anyone around me was thinking, "wow, that's a lot of emotion for a 10k").

Oh, mom, I hope I gave you a good laugh today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I've been waking up every morning before dawn this week, not knowing what do with myself.
In a blur, 5am becomes almost 7 and I'm still sitting on my porch just listening and watching everything wake up around me...

I'm trying to steel myself for tomorrow.
I want to try my hardest to say something, share a few words at her memorial...

And breathe.