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World Mental Health Day 2018: Letting Go of Guilt and Grief

The anniversary of my brother’s passing was on Monday. This year, I didn’t do anything on social media. No childhood photos, no tributes, no music videos from singers and bands he loved. I usually find it to be cathartic. However, this year, the feelings have been different. This year, it wasn’t simply “I miss Matty, I’m sad he’s no longer with us,” this year it was more about what the anniversary represents.

At this point, whether anyone has wanted to or not, my family has adjusted to life without him. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss him or don’t think about what life would be like if he were here (I went to text him a few weeks ago over something dumb Ronnie had said on Jersey Shore Family Vacation and it was like, “oh…oops. Guess I can’t.” I hadn’t done that in years.), it just means we’re past the initial shock and the pain has slightly lessened. Now, the anniversary represents the day life changed forever, and I am angry.

I am angry that it happened at a time in my life when things were coming together, only to have it be blown apart in roughly 24 hours. I am angry that someone made a horrible judgment call and he lost his life because of it. They don’t realize that they took a part of my family with him, and I hate them for it. I hate that I constantly feel like I’m bobbing along in water, fighting to not completely fall apart, especially this time of year. I hate feeling like I’m playing catch up in life, knowing that a large part of it was having to “take time off” so to speak to mourn, for the initial shock of his death to wear off. The year after he died, I tried so hard to go back to “normal” in a short amount of time. I tried everything to speed up the process, and it bit me in the ass and I feel as if I’m still paying for it.

I know I hinted last year that I wasn’t still in sad mourning mode, but I couldn’t articulate what it was. I wasn’t sure what it was either. I think this year I hit the nail on the head–now that the dust has fully settled, I’m seeing just how big the impact of Matty’s death really is. I don’t want to keep the feelings in, I want to normalize them. I want someone else who is going through the same thing to not feel guilty that they’re angry about their own lives instead of wearing all black and weeping over a photograph on the anniversary. Death has a ripple effect on the living, it would be weird if it didn’t. It doesn’t mean you hate the person, it means you hate what happened to the person and what the anniversary does to you, and that you even have to acknowledge an anniversary. My brother was only 30 when he died. I’m going to be turning 33 in a few months, it’s fucked up and not fair.

With today being World Mental Health Day, I really wanted to share this. Again, I don’t want others feeling alone and I don’t want to keep it bottled up inside. It is okay not to be okay every once in a while. It’s important to tell people things you may be feeling as they may be able to help. If they don’t like it, they’re probably not worth having around. I do miss my brother, I’m just unhappy with the aftermath. Perhaps now having said it, the guilt will ease up and I can actually relax and begin to let go. Let go and allow myself to enjoy things, to make the most of life as I’m still here. 

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getting fine at 29, Health, Love, Personal

The Painful Awareness of Aging

While trying to come up with a loving tribute to my brother to post as a Facebook status as today marks three years since his passing, I just couldn’t. I tried so hard, but everything came out so angry and negative. Earlier today, while shopping with my mom (our tradition to help distract from the day,) we walked into a Disney store, and the first two displays were Star Wars and Marvel Comics. To make matters worse, a very wistful version of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” was playing in the background, and all I could think of was that he’d either be angry that there was so much merchandise (angry that Disney, Disney!! of all things owns Obi-wan and Wolverine, and that Disney is totally fucking over X-Men because of Fox, blah blah blah) or beyond excited that there was more access to things that he once loved. I burst into tears. I had to leave the store. Last night at work, every minor thing was pissing me off. I couldn’t focus, I felt panicky all night.  Obviously, this day is always going to be sad and weird and hard. But the last two anniversaries, I didn’t cry on the day. I didn’t have borderline panic attacks at work the night before. Things were always just…meh. The weeks leading up to the day have always been anxiety producing, but as it got closer, it would kind of stop til I was just…meh. Why is this bothering me so much on this particular anniversary?

Oh, that’s right. Two months from Monday, I’m going to be thirty. I’m going to be the same age as my brother was when he died. Barring any sudden terminal illnesses or freak accidents, once I hit thirty and three months, I will be officially older than my older brother. To me, that is the meanest and cruelest of reminders that he’s gone. I can’t wrap my head around this. I mean, logically, yes, it makes sense that since my brother is no longer alive and I am, that I would out age him, but emotionally, it’s scary and weird. Thirty is crazy enough, but this? This just adds a whole new layer of hurt. I am dealing with this alone, and it’s hard. Who do you even talk to about this? This isn’t like a dating problem or something more universal, this is something most people don’t ever have to even think about. The last time I sought professional help in dealing with grief, the shrink more or less told me that the solution was to get a better job and a boyfriend. I’m not even kidding, that is what I got for $120 a session. I’m not trying to be a special snowflake, poor Princess Furey, but this is really hard. Anything age related, and I can’t handle it.

The most recent example: crush gone wrong rejected me for a girl that is significantly younger than me. Again, not the worst thing that ever happened to me. It’s not like he cheated on me or the girl he went after had a vendetta against me. But since I have “oh shit, I’m coming up to an age that should be celebrated, not scary but is because of my stupid brother” attached to me, I wanted to punch this guy. I felt so old, so ugly, and so horrible about myself when shit went down. But I couldn’t quite say to him, “You don’t like me that way, I get it. But for fuck’s sake, could she just be a little closer to your age so I’m not feeling shitty about my age more than I already am thanks to my dead brother? Thanks, jag off!” I admit, this is selfish and unfair on my end–I’m totally taking my anger out on this guy simply because I can’t grasp this weird, weird, weird fact. Yes, getting rejected sucks ass, but overall, it isn’t his fault. It’s not Matty’s, either. He didn’t plan this. It’s a hard, strange fact that I’m having trouble with and can’t process. Will I ever get over it? Is this going to taint every birthday? Because those are hard with or without this “death age” thing hanging over my head.

And that is why I can’t do the, “I’ll always love and miss you, brother!” type post on social media this year. As much as I want to, I can’t. I do want people to talk about him. He existed. I can’t pretend he wasn’t born; wasn’t a major part of my life as well as other people’s, like his widow, his friends, our sister, our parents, our extended family. He was. He still is. It’s just that this age thing has me freaked out. It’s not supposed to be this way. But it is what it is. And now that I’ve had the breakthrough (if you’ve read this far, thank you very much.) I can ease up a little more and actually enjoy what’s ahead, which I know he would want.

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Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going: Getting Fine at 29

Where have I been? I’ve been hibernating for the past six months. It’s the only way I can explain it. Everything I’ve done has been safe, either involving family or my best friend. Why?

 

I’ve been hibernating now that the dust has settled after my brother’s passing. The first year after, my emotions were very heightened, I was still in shock and trying very hard to simply escape the pain. But in the second year, I went numb on the inside. I couldn’t feel excited or happy about anything anymore, and it scared me. I was in constant fight or flight mode, not being able to relax in the fear that if I did, another shit storm would happen. And to be honest, it’s something I’ve been feeling since high school, but now it was unstoppable. It didn’t begin to let up until recently, when I turned 29, regressed to 21 and had an embarrassing night after too many glasses of Knob Creek, and then dealing with the fall out for about a week afterwards.

 

The calm before the storm--this is what 29 looks like so far

The calm before the storm–this is what 29 looks like so far

 

The problem, I realized (with the help of a very patient best friend who may or may not have woken up to a barrage of texts detailing my issues,) is that I don’t really deal with anything. I go to work, I say and do the right things, but at the end of the day, I just don’t deal with anything, so when a high stress occasion is on the horizon (usually a holiday or a birthday or the anniversary,) all my issues just come out full force, resulting in an emotional breakdown that makes me physically ill. I seem to be all over the place and resort to bad habits, self destructive habits (in my case, settling for a one time fling with a sub-par man) and I can’t take it anymore. It’s not healthy, and I certainly don’t want to be like this in my thirties!

 

 

So, I’ve decided that I will make 29 the year I get fine. Not cured, not invincible, not crazy. It’s going to take time, but I need to make a stronger effort in order to get my life back, to deal with my issues in a healthy way and to not get so bogged down. Part of the sadness on my 29th birthday was because I felt so stunted and I’m not where I feel I should be. I know, I know, it’s not a race, but I need to stop hibernating and start living, get back to things I used to love while challenging myself, starting with this here blog. Although I may not have a permanent professional writing home anymore, I still have a lot to say and need to say it.

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