There was a calmness in the pain that I didn’t and still don’t understand, an ease that I can’t explain. One minute I was crying so hard I could feel my internal organs shaking, and on the next breath my tears had stopped and the tsunami washing over me receded just as quickly as it had slammed onto me. I remember thinking “I am stronger than I thought, I can do this, I am going to do this, I don’t have any other choice”. What I didn’t know in that moment was that the calm, the ease, the strength was a symptom of what I’d later term The Great Break.
Feeling my mind and my spirit snap in half, and then again, and then again – as if someone was folding me into an origami and slicing me into pieces at the same time – is one of the worst parts of going through severe shock and trauma. There was no sense of a way out at all at first. There was no sense whatsoever of there being any way to “come back” from what I was going through. There was no light, there was no hope, there was nothing. There was me as a very shattered version of the self I knew so well and a knowledge that I’d never, ever, ever be the same. I’ve had many talks with my friends and relatives over the last year about The Great Break and the running consensus is that I’m Full of it. No one saw me break. Bend, yes. Bend so far I was unrecognizable, yes. Break? No. I tried with everything in me to hide how bad this got from literally every single person I came in contact with. It still amazes me now when someone says they think I’m doing amazing or have done amazing because for me that means success in faking it. And make no mistake, even now, I’m faking it on most days.
The thing is that I got trapped in thinking that I was alone and that no one had a clue what this was like. I thought that what I was going through was unique and that even people who’d been through something similar had never felt the way I felt. I isolated the hell out of myself, talking only briefly about the “darkness” that hung over me when I felt it prudent. I’ve been up front and honest as much as possible, but there are depths to my grief that I don’t know I’d ever want people to follow me to. I tried to kill myself the morning Alex died. I got on the elevator from the ICU and decided to go jump off the top of the building. Very few people actually know that. I also didn’t eat for 2 days, survived off Gatorade/Powerade and as many Criminal Minds episodes as I could watch. I was, and wanted to be, dead. The urge to follow Alex was so strong that I had to be in constant contact with someone, even though they had no clue what was going on, almost non-stop. My stress level had been at it’s absolute peak for the entirety of 2016 as Alex got sicker, the bills piled up, and the knowledge that we were going to have to leave Shoreline started to sink in. Losing Alex BROKE me.
The thing is: breaking isn’t decimating. Somehow or another I knew the whole time that amongst the pieces, I was still in here. I am still in here. I’m rebuilding a life that I didn’t ask for or want but decided to continue fighting for anyway. Healing begins when you recognize that you can, and while the darkness is still ever present for me, and the cracks are still showing a little bit of everywhere – the light is starting to come back through.