“Crazy doesn’t live here anymore.

For the past few days the following phrase has been floating around in my head, bumping into my consciousness at the most inconvenient times. “Crazy doesn’t live here anymore.” Ideas about creating a meme for Facebook or making it my cover photo  keeps poking at my psyche.

In a moment of introspection I decided “Crazy doesn’t live here anymore” was going to be my next blog post. In order, to understand the importance of this phrase it helps to define crazy.

Crazy can mean mental illness. Crazy can refer to outrageous behavior.   It has not been unusual to hear “Cristi, you are so crazy.” This was often in response to my ability to be a little naive, and walk into situations that highlight this. Driving home late at night from Pine Ridge one night, I was worried about hitting a deer on miles of desolate roads with no assistance for miles. A Native American friend of mind told me “To throw an offering of tobacco (cigarette) out the passenger side of the car window.” My response was, with a perfectly serious tone and straight face, “Should I light it first?” Everyone stared at me waiting for the punch line. I am waiting for an answer. The answer was “Only if you want to start the reservation on fire.” Then, everyone laughed while saying “Cristi, you are so crazy.” The phrase “Crazy doesn’t live here anymore” didn’t fit here either. I rather like that type of crazy.

I knew what crazy that phrase was referring too. In my family of origin and extended family the phrase, ” You are just like your mother”, was enough to strike terror in a young girl’s heart. When someone referred to my mother it was not her beauty they were talking about. She is a beautiful women even now in her late 60’s. It was the crazy, out control behavior she exhibited that was known to make grown men cry, and little babies run in terror. In her moments of crazy she was like a possessed demon. Curse words would fly, objects were known to levitate. Well, not quite levitate because she would throw them, but at times it did seem as if something supernatural was at work.

The problem with being a daughter of a crazy, she devil, was that extended family could not separate my behavior from my mother’s behavior. They were always on the look out for signs of the crazy she devil. If for a second, they thought a behavior was similar to her behavior out came the phrase, “That’s just like your mother.” “You don’t want to be like your mother  now.” Hearing this was worse than being called any sailor curse word known to man.

As a child I had no option except to bear silent witness to her very public acting out. Silent prayers to an unknown deity often took place inside of my head asking for help to shut her up, to have her not be so embarrassing, and to please not let me be like her.   Most of my adult life I have feared that the tragedy, which was my mother’s mental illness would some how become my burden to bear. I became educated, went to counseling, and I still couldn’t come out from under this fear of being crazy like mother. I  spent years fighting with every inch of my being to remove the curse of being crazy.

It wasn’t just me that kept me in the fear. It was my cousins, who often stated “You are going to be just like your mother.” It was my siblings, who won’t take my calls because the she devil might find out. Their fear of crazy keeps them solidly in line. It is the extended family, who had too often experienced the she devil crazy to even take a chance on getting to know me, that kept me in the fear.  During a Somatic Archaeology training recently, I was able to come out of that fear of being crazy, which had been carried through my female generational line. Finally this weight of seven rocks I had carried for 50 years was taken away from me. I no longer fear crazy. I can’t be crazy like her. I won’t be crazy like her. I am no longer a prisoner of fear. “Crazy doesn’t live here anymore.”

 

 

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I am a surfer, hear me roar.

The word emotion conjures up vivid images of various people in the throes of strong feelings. As these images roll across my line of vision, a thought occurs to me. None of these emotions are right or wrong, they just are. It is the judgement I have of them that creates many of my own problems.

What would happen if I let the emotion flow through me; similar to the way the ocean moves in and out. A surf boarder will ride the wave up, and down. Sometimes wiping out, but getting up to do it again. What if I rode the waves of my emotions as a surfer? I might wipe out, and not get back up again. That was the fear.

In my grief I built a dam in the flow of emotion. This dam was built around the negative emotions I believed I could not handle such as grief, anger, and sadness. What I did not understand until recently, this dam creates disease in the body. At first, these emotions create psychosomatic pain. If these emotions are left in the body long term, the dam can create physical disease in the body.

In counseling terms this is called the mind, body connection. The mind body connection has been largely ignored by psychological theories and mainstream therapists.  I was not healing my grief by healing the mind. My physical body hurt from the death of my son. I was looking to medical doctors to heal this pain not understanding that I created the dam in my own body to contain the emotions.  It was not until I began working with a Somatic Therapist did my body begin to heal.

When that emotional dam broke I rode a tidal wave down a water fall. Nothing else existed. Nothing else mattered. I broke into a million pieces at the bottom. As I picked myself up I realized I survived the wipe out. Not only did I survive, I felt better.  Healing had begun.

However,  that is not the end of the story.  Unless I learned to ride the wave of emotions, and learned not to create dams in my body I would not continue to heal beyond where I already was.

I created my dam though medication, living in my head, and ignoring the present.  I am learning to accept how I feel in the moment without judgement. I am learning to breathe into the physical pain releasing it back into the flow out of the body. I am learning I am a warrior and a surfer. Strong in mind and strong in body.

Unfriended grief

The holidays will quickly be here. The weather has been so nice; it doesn’t seem possible it is almost Thanksgiving. It is during the holidays that  I feel the greatest pressure to not be sad about the death of Chris.  I keep it to myself. It is much easier to keep silent than it is to hear the helpful or not so helpful comments of the people around you.

Here are several I have heard over the years. “Try not to think about him this holiday.” “Really,” I wanted to say. How does a person even do that? Pretend he didn’t exist. Someone said last year, “Celebrate his life” Hmm, celebrate that it ended too soon. Celebrate that he doesn’t get to have holiday dinners with us anymore. I actually, got unfriended on Facebook for that particular comment.  As an observer of people that is particularly interesting.

I often wonder what was most difficult for that person? Was it my continuing to express how much I miss him on Facebook? Was I considered to be a negative person because I expressed my feelings? What was it that they could not handle?

I do wonder about the perception of negativity when I talk about my grief. My constant memes on Facebook about missing him, or the posts of his decorated headstones. Are these things identifying me as a negative person or a complainer? Such a fine line we walk, us grievers. There is a sense that we need to be true to who we are, what we feel, but to also, not offend others with our endless grieving. And, it is endless. The grieving.

I had an experience during a training a few weeks ago, which highlighted just how endless this grieving is. I was practicing a body awareness technique that pushed me into this deep well of grief. As these feelings, tears, sadness, hopelessness poured out of me I was deeply embarrassed. I could barely look at my partner. It was at this bleak moment I realized how profoundly this shaming of my emotional expression of grief had been. I was hunched into myself waiting for the judgement that usually followed such an experience. There was silence in the room as I explained how fearful I was of what their thoughts and comments might have been. That day I was lucky. My outburst was accepted, and validated.

Thoughts still plague me though. I am pretty out spoken about my feelings despite having hid the worst of them for the last five years. What if I was not outspoken? How much is buried in other grievers, who keep silent about their grief? We have to do better when it comes to allowing others to have emotions we considered negative. I am sure now that is why I was unfriended over my grief. Grief is not a negative emotion. Crying is not a negative emotion. Grievers are not complainers. They lost their heart, their love, and when family comes together; they miss them. It’s that simple. Let them miss them.

Just a little faith

Last night during meditation there was a pain on the side of my neck. Breathing into this spot, visualizing a space around the pain, extracting the pain, and breathing deeply through the pain; a wave of anger swooped through me. The last few months have been about processing this anger I feel. It’s not really anger at my son for dying, but angry at everyone around me for not helping me. Going to doctors for chemical solutions was not helping. Going to counselors for counseling was not helping.  Talking to family and friends was not helping. I was just “PISSED”.

This angry feeling had manifested as pain in my shoulder. As I manipulated the pain with my deep breathing a new truth began to emerge. Growing up as a child, I was taught to make the pain go away by grabbing a pill, or a beverage. Reaching for anything that would stuff the pain down deep.

After hearing the news that my son had died crying and screaming in a way that is inhuman. I distinctly remember saying “My dad will help me.” How ironic that statement is that I would reach for him instead of my mother.

I remember the next morning after he died telling my husband “I need chocolate.” He went to get doughnuts for me. The memory of the amazing feeling of having all that sugar run though my veins still makes me long for chocolate. Just as a junky does, I couldn’t wait for my next dose of sugar. Addiction to sugar is real. For me it cured all the pain or at least buried it all under a sugar high.

I remember reaching out for my higher power, and being disappointed because it didn’t help. I didn’t have the emotional energy to participate in the sweat like I needed too or go to ceremony. During the last ceremony I went too; I cried my way through it. At the end the leader told me “That’s enough now.” “No, more crying” I had buckets of tears left, but no permission to cry.

In my meditation I recognized the loss that came with the absence of faith when I was growing up. There were no kind words about a higher power than our selves. In fact, it was the opposite; the mother was the higher power. She, and She alone dictated the course and happiness in life. There were no teachings to lean on to give strength when it was needed. Strength came from mother or was withheld when mother was displeased. If there were prayers, there were prayers to mother to end the suffering she would bestow.

What I needed when my son died was faith. Faith in myself. Faith in a higher power. Faith that his spirit did not disappear into nothingness. The journey over the last five years has taught me about faith, about my ability to be strong, and about his ability to still be a strong presence in my life. I have lost in those five years too. People have come and gone. Many were not able to tolerate what my life had become. This is, also, a test in faith. God set me on this path by taking my son before I was ready to let him go. I need to trust that the changes that occur because of this path are necessary, and for my highest good. This too is faith.

Transitions

This week a young friend left the comfort of adolescence behind, and stepped into adulthood. As she made this transition, reflections of my children’s journeys were mirrored in the background.

As always the loss of my son shadows most of my waking thoughts and experiences. An inner dialogue plays in the background. Contemplating my own feelings of being proud and sad all at the same time; I wonder what would I tell about her about this next portion of her life? Would it be different from what I told my sons when they made the same transition.

The answer is “Yes”. To my sons, I said “Congratulations” “What are your plans for the future?” To her, my comments are much different.

Treasure each moment. For every negative event or emotion, you will have positive events and emotions. Don’t get caught up on having the best car, or the best house, or the lack of either. Treasure the beauty of the sunrise, and be grateful to see the sun set. Treasure each sleepless night from a crying baby. It all goes so fast.

Live each moment with all five of your senses. Smell, touch, taste, hear, and feel your way through your day. Appreciate the people around you even the negative ones. In order, to appreciate the positive people you need to be reminded why they are the positive ones.

Bad times come. They pass. Keep on living. Bad things happen. Keep on living. Living is what this life is about.

But most importantly; my young friend follow your dreams. Fly high life awaits you.

 

 

 

 

Why?

A little over two years ago I finished writing a book on grief. Aw, completion. In my naivety I believed what I had to say about grief ended when the book was finished. In hindsight I realized writing is what was healing my grief. When I stopped writing I stopped healing. See, here is the thing about grief especially after the loss of a child; it doesn’t end. The nuances of the grief changed, but it didn’t end.

Living is hard to do when you are grieving. Most of your time is spent in your head thinking, and feeling. Well, after the book was written I could focus on the business of living. I had neglected my health by not eating right, not exercising, and not taking care of myself. The person I saw in the mirror was barely recognizable. My house had not been thoroughly cleaned since my son died. It had been neglected too. All around me where visible signs that I had not been living. I had been existing.

I had been on a path of self-destruction I realize now. What was hard was bringing myself back from the brink of the cliff I had been ready to jump off of. It continues to be hard to redo the damage I did to myself during the more intense moments of my grieving. As I began living again I realized I have more to say. This business of living and grieving gets complicated sometimes. In order to figure it out, I realized I needed to write again. So here it is, my musings about life, and about grief.