Surviving Amour Fou #6: The Beginning Was the End (a letter)

SB,

Of course I’m writing on the 25th anniversary of us finding each other on AOL. That day changed my life. 3/1/1996 truly was the beginning of my life with you. (And it some ways, my life began again 19 years later…)

For so many years, I thought we’d celebrate this day together with the “next generation” of cats. Probably dinner while watching a favorite show and Scrabble with desert. Instead, I went to work, listened to a bunch of albums we loved, came home to my Sweetie, and made nachos for dinner. Watched TV projected on the wall, in a nice little apartment 5 minutes from where I was raised. I’m happy.

If there is an Afterworld, and loved ones can show us little “signs”–you certainly have been at it lately, especially with the so-called random shuffle. At least I can finally get through Pet Sounds without shedding a tear. It’s going to be nice to have that album back. Let It Be is still a little hard to get all the way through. In time. And like right now… Frank Sinatra’s My Way?

Kevin, when I allow myself to miss you, it hurts so much because it’s the only time I allow myself to remember that my time with you is real. It’s gonna take more time for me to really give that past a slip. My soul knew its mate for 18 years. I’m grateful for that. The Amour Fou part I could have done without. What are ya gonna do?

Could we have avoided your death? In an alternate universe, sure. Not in this one, with who we were during that whole time. What are ya gonna do?

I wouldn’t be who I am without losing you. That’s the paradox of my lifetime. Well, one of them. This is another: If you had loved me the way my Sweetie and my Darling love me, you may not have had to suffer the way you did. What are ya gonna do?

I recently had a boss that reminded me of not-so-pleasant parts of our dynamic. Now that my soul can no longer endure certain types of behavior from other humans, it started to get exponentially untolerable. I lasted about a month between the time I realized what was going on and having to take two weeks off work because I damn near broke down. It wasn’t just work that got me thinking of you for the last quarter of 2020. Again, what are ya gonna do?

Your website’s turning 25. I’m updating it while making sure as many links as possible do not change. You should see how easy it is to program a website with a shopping cart now! I’m ecstatic to share Synthfool with my Sweetie and my Darling. We will make you proud.

It’s time for me to wind down and snuggle next to my Sweetie.

What a glorious time to be free…

LYLC

Mental Health Adventures #1: Stability Quest

This will be kinda rambly. It’s definitely along the narrative freewriting route, but focused on talking about mental health issues. Hey, the brain is an organ that can go wonky, like many other organs in our bodies. The more we talk about it, the better off we’ll be.

It really does make a difference to get ready-to-use things. You end up wasting less because you actually use everything you buy. Plus, you don’t have that guilt of wasting stuff, which is like pouring salt on a mental illness wound you’re trying to heal.

(Don’t lecture me on landfills. I don’t have kids and I’m not a multinational corporation. Plus I get most of my clothes from thrift stores.)

A few of the things I’ve found useful:

It’s a lot easier to use those face cleansing cloths than it is to wash my face at the sink. Besides, I end up cleaning a little bit more than I would washing my face. Sometimes I also wipe up the sink if I remember.

Pre-cut cheese slices make breakfast and lunch easier to make.

Small, cheap bags of frozen veggies are easy to add to mac & cheese

Picking up my groceries is much easier. I even have a way to re-use the bags.

Buying large containers of certain things (mayonnaise, peanut butter, coffee, sugar) is easier than buying everything in bulk.

It’s amazingly easy to fill a crock pot full of chicken at my last break and have it ready for dinner. Sides vary to keep things interesting.

Chili bean spaghetti is a very quick yet filling meal.

Ah yes, that whole stability thing. Doing all of the above makes it easier to start to develop a new routine, now that work issues have resolved themselves in my favor. I finally have the freedom to set my schedule, which means I can fuss with it a little as I get a grasp of what I need to do and how much time it really takes to get various things done.

It’s hard to get used to the fact that I’ve finally reached the next plateau and it’s time to get in the mode of making the most of the present. Primarily because of what’s going on in the world and in my country. I try not to focus too much on things I have no control over, or that will be emotionally taxing because it’s one of the world’s horrors. I just want people to choose love over fear. It’s too much to ask for, unfortunately.

I have to temper how much new stuff I take on, as I don’t want to get overwhelmed. I need to be kind to myself and focus on being productive. The rest will continue to fall into place.

It’s still sinking in that I’m on the mend. I can deal with grief in a healthy way, and most importantly, I have my Sweetie’s and my Darling’s love to help me through it. To be loved as I am, through a flare-up of mental illness, was part of the reason I didn’t have breakdown. (Prozac and weed are the other part. Better THC than benzos…)

I know I still have to navigate through a couple of “seasons” through the year (birthday/wedding season and widowhood season, plus the holidays), but love really does help me focus on the present and future. Taking a moment to process feelings is a normal part of these times, too. Making the effort to do the internal work to give the past a slip has paid off in the long run. Was it easy? Not really. I finally realized that it was going to hurt me more if I didn’t confront the things I kept putting off. (Yay, Amour Fou.)

My point? Do the work, but don’t forget there’s a life to build once you’re stable. You owe it to yourself to find happiness now that you’re on the mend. Be kind to yourself and realize that it’s a delicate time that still requires self-care.

How? (Freewriting)

How does one tell their boss “Your management style isn’t good for my mental health”? That’s not something people are used to articulating. But yet that’s what I find myself wanting to do.

Granted, my mental health hasn’t been ideal for awhile. I was doing a good job functioning reasonably well. Then there was that whole being triggered by an acquaintance’s suicide thing in September. Add to that the realization that my boss has done a lot of things that I know really aren’t ok because Kevin used to do very similar things to me right alongside the holidays. Not good. Thanks largely to my meds and my loves, I’ve managed to keep some of my marbles. I also forced myself to take time off work (yay FMLA) so I can start to get my head straight.

It wasn’t until I didn’t have to think about work did I realize just how lost I was. Can’t help but take it personally when someone tries to excuse their poor behavior on work stress. It’d be easier to be told that a person is struggling a little and is aware their behavior might not be completely on par and asks for patience. Exact same situation, different attitude. You’ve got it rough? I feel for ya. You’re gonna use that as justification to treat me poorly and tell me not to take it personally? I’d prefer not to continue to be in that kind of a situation.

I know what I’m capable of, and all I want to do is grow, not fall back into accepting less that I deserve.

Surviving Amour Fou #5: The May/December Thing

I just finished reading Priscilla Presley’s book about her time with Elvis. Last year, I bought Mayte Garcia’s audiobook about her time with Prince. Sure, Kevin was just an excellent tech, not a worldwide musical sensation. . . but I saw some similarities that had nothing to do with profession. So it got me thinking.

I want to address the May/December Thing as a relationship between two human beings. While the stereotypical dynamic is that May is a young woman and December is an older man, this is not always the case. What I’m speaking about is May being under 25 and at least 10 years younger than December. Sure, our society applauds Ms. Decembers who find themselves a Mr. May, but feminism does not mean that it’s okay for women to be predators as well. (Not all Decembers are predators, but it’s a potential red flag May needs to know about.)

Full disclosure: I was a May, as I was barely 21 when I met Kevin, who was 33. My current loves are over 10 years younger than I am, but we’re all over 30. I did not fully comprehend this dynamic’s downsides until after Kevin was dead. (Gotta love that 20/20 hindsight!)

I fully understand that it’s hard to convince May not to be with December. Those who tried to warn me were thanked for their concern and my opinion did not change. I knew I had to be with Kevin, full stop. It’s a powerful feeling, to be May and find yourself being admired by December.

Perhaps you’ve always felt like an old soul, and here’s your proof at last? While it may seem that age doesn’t matter, in important ways, it kinda does. The thing to remember is that December’s brain has finished growing and May’s still has a little ways to go. December also doesn’t have the trappings of youth, and can offer needed perspective to May. It’s not unique to December, though–anyone slightly older is going to have that kind of insight.

The attention can become addicting for both May and December. May’s still learning to process these types of emotions, and December is intoxicated by a chance to revisit youth. May’s initial surge of clinginess is both flattering and annoying to December. This is where watching out for that red flag comes in handy. December, don’t make May jump through hoops in order to contact you. If you need to put up healthy boundaries, go for it.

May’s also facing a lifetime of adulthood, which is frightening. December offers a way out of the typical young adulthood struggle. The more uncertain May is about what direction in life to head, the more attractive a life with December appears. You just get absorbed into that life, and start to make it your own. There’s not much wrong with that, as long as you’re also encouraged to have whatever interests and friends you had before December walked into your life. It’s not good to make one person your whole life like that while you’re still trying to figure out who you are.

So be in love and enjoy it, May. Just keep your eyes open and know not to give up your individuality in order to make December happy. Also know that if you have to leave, it’s ok to do so. December existed before you and they will exist afterwards.

Oh, and December? May must have things in their life that have nothing to do with you. Don’t share one of May’s interests? Find something to do while they’re away. Keep this in mind: If you create a dynamic where May ends up resenting you, the sex will suffer. (That motivation enough?)

Love, but don’t control. Love, but don’t lose yourself.

Surviving Amour Fou #4: The Worst Pun In The World

Kevin came up with the following joke. Most people agree it’s the worst pun in the world. 🙂 This is by no means the “gospel version” of this joke, but as close to Kevin’s version as I can remember.

Eddie Van Halen had a little dog who loved to watch him play guitar. The dog would run around happily, which soon presented a problem. Eddie would get immersed in his playing and almost step on the dog, who would not stop getting underfoot.

If Eddie put this dog in another room while he practiced, the dog would howl. So, he thought about the problem for a bit, and came up with an idea. What if he could find a temporary adhesive so the dog would stay in one place while he practiced? He thought about it some more, and came up with the correct mixture that was not harmful to the floor or the dog.

He tested it, and it worked! He wanted to share this with the world, so he decided to sell it.

The name of the product?

Rock and Roll Poochie Glue


RIP Mr. Edward Van Halen, a fine example of The American Dream.

Widow by Suicide

When asked, I don’t usually tell people how Kevin died unless I trust the person. I just say that he was sick and in pain for a long time. It’s not that I’m ashamed of his suicide, because I’m not. I don’t want to deal with people’s reactions. People don’t truly understand that particular type of loss unless they’ve experienced it. If they haven’t, they don’t know how to react, and I really don’t blame them. Especially when I tell them that my life is better now than it was when he was alive. (Better is really subjective, because it’s much different. The differences are positives. It’s hard for me to balance all those emotions in my head.)

When you lose a loved one to suicide, encountering a situation where someone died by that method of death can be triggering. For the past six years, hearing about other people killing themselves has always triggered a flood of memories about Kevin. These days, hearing of a suicide reminds me exactly why I’m on medication and that I shouldn’t be so eager to get off it.

It all started when Robin Williams died 4 weeks after Kevin. Robin’s death was a shock that was very difficult to process until I learned about the aggressive type of dementia he had called Lewy Body Dementia. His brilliant brain turned against him in a brutal way, and he was no longer himself. That’s what caused him to end his life, and I feel we owe it to him to get that right and not let memes let us get lazy about the truth of his suicide. He should get a pass because that disease is horrendous. But I digress.

It was emotionally overwhelming to see the world mourn that unique soul the day after I had to endure Kevin’s first post-mortem birthday. Somehow I got through that time. I’m really not sure how, honestly. That time is a blur. I was in such a fog trying to cope with the loss of my soulmate and trying to figure out what kind of a life I going to have now that I was on my own at nearly 40.

In the 6 years since we lost Robin Williams, there have been other suicides in the world at large and in my little world, and it’s never really easy to deal with. It’s gotten easier as the years pass, but it still takes time for me to snap out of remembering that blurry time. I can’t do it too soon or it’ll just pop up again, but I can’t let it drag on or it won’t stop. It’s a delicate balance I’m still trying to figure out.

For how long is it healthy to keep playing those memories in my mind’s eye like a montage set to whatever song that reminds me of him pops into my head? Do I try to listen to a couple songs to see if they still carry intense sense memories? Or do I just go through the snippets of memories over and over again?

I remember:

  • how all the music the night before when I was up late shuffling through his iTunes library that hinted that he may be gone and I shouldn’t be waiting up for him to come back.
  • Not wanting to fall asleep the night after he died because I couldn’t face my first day as a widow.
  • How hoarse my voice got with all the talking I did those first few days.
  • All the times I was called brave when sharing the news with others. As if I had no other choice but to continue to live.
  • So many migraines. It was the only thing I allowed myself to stay in bed for.
  • Days like one last week where all sorts of songs that remind me of Kevin that I haven’t heard in ages pop up randomly from however You Tube Music decides to generate customized playlists. It can randomly get overwhelming, which isn’t ideal during the workday.

The truth is, after six fargin years, I still can’t think too much about losing him because the emotional pain can causes physical pain. All the intense sense memories that pop up when listening to music that prevent me from listening to music I adore. It sucks and I hate going through it. And I accepted it was going to happen beforehand because I’d done everything I could to take care of him and keep him alive as long as I could.

Meds help keep me from wallowing in that pain, but I still feel it. For years, and even still now to a small extent, it’s been easier to think of those 18 years as a dream. I’ve done a lot of work to process the loss, and have learned better coping mechanisms, for the most part. It hasn’t been easy. Hindsight is bittersweet as well as 20/20, and I’ve made a lot of realizations about my years with Kevin that explained so much and would have made a lot of things easier.

Still, when a suicide happens, I try to have compassion for the newly deceased and learn what made them decide to stop living. I feel for the family and am once again grateful we were childfree and all our cats were gone. I feel for all those who would have gladly helped that person find reasons to live. Survivor’s guilt is a drag.

Yet, compassionate as I may be, it puts me in a funk for a few days and I start to miss Kevin. It’s hard to find the balance between “I miss my soulmate” and “My Sweeties are the love of my life.” Do I feel bad that I wouldn’t take him back if he somehow magically came back to life or proud that I’ve grown into a different person over these past 6 years? Trying to balance this reminds me of two things in college: Balancing equations in Chemistry and diagramming sentences in an English Grammar class. It was hard doing those two things, but I managed to figure it out enough to pass both classes.

So yes, it’s hard, but I do my best to weather out the storm and get on with life. I’ve learned how to function well during this time. It’s mentally exhausting at times, but continuing to live helps keep me from wallowing in the loss. Having my Sweeties to call on when I need them is a tremendous help. Their love is the antidote for the pain of losing Kevin. It’s not a substitute, it’s an upgrade.

I hope I’ve done a decent job trying to convey my perspective. At the very least, if you’ve lost a part of your heart to suicide, you know you’re not alone. I know rom personal experience that does help.

Narrative Mostly Freewriting #6: Self Image

I remarked to my favorite Maternal cousin the other day that I was still getting used to being seen as desirable by my Sweeties. Meds have caused some weight gain, and I’ll be on them for a bit longer, it seems. But that doesn’t matter to them. It’s wonderful yet hard to accept.

In my last post I talked about giving the voice that tells you to harm yourself a name and fight it like a bully. That’s a tip I learned at the turn of the century when I frequented the forums of an support group for Eating Disorders. I was 26 and a mere 2 pounds away from mandatory hospitalization when I finally got into therapy. I weighed 103 when I was 14 and that freaked me the fuck out. So I cut out meat to make it easier not to eat. That lasted until college, when I finally had some control over my life.

It took a dozen years to get diagnosed because I wasn’t your stereotypical anorexic obsessed with looks. It was all about control. Growing up, there were only two things I really had control over–the state of my room and what I ate. My room was a mess and I didn’t weigh over 100 pounds until years after I moved out. Oddly enough, the messiness thing lingered even when I was eating like a normal, healthy person. Let’s not digress about that today though.

Until I hit 40, I never really felt like I could be accepted for who I am. Everyone who loved me seemed to not like something about me that they would point out often. It made me feel like people were doing me a favor by loving me, so I should let those people control me. I didn’t kick that bad habit until after Kevin died. I had a clean slate, and there were many things I swore “never again will I tolerate this behavior.”

Now that I’m halfway through them, I’m still working on accepting that I’m loveable for who I am at this moment in time. My Sweeties are unconditionally accepting and supportive of me yet are frank with me when the situation merits it. It’s a great thing we have, and I’m really lucky.

Ah yes, the voice thing. I named my eating disorder Calvin Ferguson, the nemesis of the Ghostwriter Team, which were characters from this show that was on PBS on Sunday nights. I was a couple years older than the normal demographic for the show, but I still enjoyed it. Calvin was the Snidley Whiplash type of villain–it was clear you were never to sympathize with him. I figured that was a fitting name for that voice that told me I’d feel better the longer I went without eating. It really helped with recovery, and I started eating like a normal person. My Calvin popped up after the first couple years of Kevin’s illness. I had to admit that I had that problem again, as that was probably a source of the oodles of the nearly 3 dozen migraines I had that same year. Calvin was admonished as much as possible.

These days, I will enable myself to easily eat when I know I’m prone to start restricting. At the beginning of quarantine, I ate a lot. Then I didn’t eat much until after I went back to the office. I like making my lunch because it’s cheaper than going out to eat all the time. Plus, I don’t blow half my lunch acquiring it.

It’s funny, I still her Calvin sometimes. Only now his voice sounds like Kevin’s. He loved to refer to my shape or my room as “piggy.” I was a reasonable weight for my body type and age. Just some bloating or weight gain from being on meds. “Don’t eat so much at night.” (Heaven forfend I make too much noise in the morning when you’re sleeping in the morning!)

Oh, I could go on, but I’m not going to. I’d rather shift my mind back to the part where my Sweeties find me desirable and loveable just the way I am. We’e got our space and we all can just live honestly for a change. It really has worked wonders for my self image. I know what they say is true, and I’m starting to see what they see when I look in the mirror.

If You’re Suicidal, Read This

So, you’re contemplating killing yourself. Indeed a tough decision. However, there’s a few things you should know before make your attempt.

Before I continue, I know there are several common reasons people contemplate suicide. I’d like to address a few of them.

If you suffer from a mental illness or are healing from trauma, let me try to encourage you to keep living. That voice that keeps telling you that you’re so much of a burden that it’s time to end it all is a motherfucking liar. No, really, it is. You’re suffering from a disease or disorder. That voice wants to destroy your sense of ease. It wants to make you feel horrible and think you’re worthless. Do people tell you you’re a wonderful person? Are you noted in your little corner of the world for being good at something? All those complements are TRUE. You’re getting them because you’re worthy of them. Yeah, we’ve all got haters, but you really can’t please everyone, can you? The ones who love you truly care about you and would miss you deeply. If you die, all your pain is going to be scattered around to people you’re close to and others whose lives you’ve touched (and you know you have because they tell you). Anyone who is a survivor of someone else’s suicide is going to be genuinely triggered. You’re going to open up a wound for that person. To me, that’s selfish.

Suffering from mental illness and got triggered from someone else’s suicide? Boy, do I feel ya. That’s precisely why this post exists. Someone I worked with on and off for a couple years killed herself a few days ago. I’m sure the voices in her head were just too loud because life circumstances were making them hard to ignore. I’m sorry she got to that point. But she had people who would have seen her through the darkness. Her death made me realize people need to know these things.

Shared pain is lessened if the person is around to be helped. Reach out to people who say they love you and tell them that you’ve got this damn voice in your head that’s trying to get you to harm yourself. I guarantee you they will want to help you live. Sure, nobody has a magic wand that will solve all your problems, but they’ll help you tell that damn voice to shut up until it silences. Please get it through your head that helping a loved one is much easier than mourning them. You owe it to everyone who says they love you to give them a chance to help.

Now, I will address the terminally ill. Yours is a much different situation. I will never tell another human being they need to keep on suffering just so they can let the disease take its course. Western Society really needs to accept death as a natural part of life and allow an adult to opt out of prolonged suffering. Until then, get as much as you can out of life for as long as you can. Try to minimize the trauma to your family, please.

If you’re chronically ill and are only going to get worse, that’s similar to the above. Share your feelings with your loved ones. Be honest about how you’re feeling. You’re more than your illness. Those who love you know that. They will also know when the illness has stolen your essence. That’s what helped me when my husband killed himself. I knew how miserable life was for him, and I accepted that he should be the one to say when he’d suffered enough. It still hurt like hell when it happened, and six years later it still hurts sometimes. Not everyone can reach that level of acceptance quickly–you need to give them time. It took me a couple years before I even tried to accept the illness had truly destroyed him.

Finally, we’ll address the “I don’t know how to deal with life right now” type of suicidal feelings. Usually this happens because of a huge change in life circumstance that isn’t a terminal illness or a chronic mental illness flares up.

Has your life as you know it changed and all you can think about is death because a relationship of some sort ended any number of ways? I get it, the feels are too much and you don’t know how you’re going to continue living without something or someone that was a major part of your life until now. You gotta come up with a better reason. Change is scary as hell, but it’s not insurmountable. I was a little suicidal at 20 when I broke up with my high school sweetheart after 5 years. I could not imagine life without him. We’d planned so much. I’m so glad I stuck around and got over him. I’ve had a quarter century of life since then, and it’s been quite a ride.

Don’t want to face the consequences of your evil actions because you finally got caught? You’re a fucking coward in addition to being a deplorable human being. Just make sure you own up to your dirty deeds before you kill yourself, if you must. Leave your victims with some closure, at least.

With the exception of evil people and the terminally ill, there are reasons to keep living. Name that damn voice in your head and fight it like the bully it is. Share the name with your people and tell them when the bully is around. They’ll have your back. People want to prevent your funeral. Living well is the best revenge to those who hurt you.

Stick around, if at all possible. Reach out to someone before you make your decision. You really do owe it to those who love you. And you do matter in this crazy world.

Surviving Amour Fou #3: Amour without Fou

Kevin’s birthday is August 10th. Made plans to visit a friend, as I requested the day off.

Some may find it hard to believe that I still see Kevin as my soulmate. Well, he was. It was a bond like no other. When it was good, it was really really good, and when it was bad, it was horrendous. I knew that a few years into it, and yet I couldn’t walk away. My soul called out to this man. I’m not gonna deny it. It’s like that old Jackson 5 song, “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Were the last 7 years hard? Hell yes. It’s over and I can’t change those years. I’ve allowed myself to grieve and feel all the complicated emotions that resulted from those 18 years of my life. So yeah, he was my soulmate, and I can miss him deeply at times even though he hurt me on levels no other person has. Ya gotta take the Fou with the Amour sometimes. But it’s a choice, and I’m glad I had those years with Kevin even though they really sucked sometimes.

Am I in a way healthier relationship now? Yes. By leaps and bounds and in ways beyond my wildest dreams. We’ve got an apartment now! To be where we can be our better selves in our own controlled environment that isn’t shared with any outsiders. This is a huge thing, and it’s wonderful! We’ve got a couple of fish tanks. I finally have a small school of neon tetras. Some of the housewifey stuff has definitely kicked back into gear, but it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, and I’m not doing everything. I love doing dishes in the morning before work. I love being able to blast music while taking a shower in the morning. I haven’t been this autonomous in a very long time.

It’s a little odd to have all of these pieces of furniture in the same place: One piece of the bedroom set I used to have as a kid, the Ikea coffee table Kevin got right after we met, a couch that my Mom got from my Aunt, a table from my Mom, and a footlocker from my Dad. Good, though, because all of this is who I’ve been up until this point. We’re starting from scratch, really, so we might as well use what we have or other people don’t need. Besides, my strengths in the relationship have more to do with numbers than aesthetics.

Having this new home is a wonderful thing. I feel so much more relaxed generally. I have a lot more space and freedom to do what I want and not feel like I have to censor parts of myself. But it was a necessary tradeoff to start working towards the present day, and I was fortunate to even have the opportunity in the first place.

Queer Eye has rubbed off on me–I took advantage of a great deal and got new clothes for thrift store prices. It enabled me to have a better work wardrobe. I’m so happy, though I need to set up a good ironing station or get better with the steam iron.

Started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. I wasn’t the target audience when it first aired, so I missed it completely. I’ve seen Korra before, but it’s been so long that I’m going to have to watch it again. Great universe done very well by good ol’ Nickelodeon.

Oh, what a lucky nerd I am. 🙂