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Losing My Sister

Sunday will mark five years since my sister died. I had a hard time losing my sister to bone cancer. She fought for over three years with bone cancer that caused her daily pain and stress.

Her life ended when she’d had too many surgeries and her body couldn’t keep up. Losing my sister is the hardest thing I’ve experienced.

I don’t feel bad for her now, because she’s free from all of that. But I do miss her; more than I miss my grandparents who have passed away. Her death was a trauma for me, as her 27-year-old soul was ripped away from my family and we were left with a forever empty chair at the table.

Now, I have a daily regimen of seven medications that keep me here on this earth from antidepressants to mood stabilizers and sleep aids. I fight suicidal thoughts and feelings near-constantly during this time of the year.

I have two girls; the younger one is my lifeline. I was pregnant with her when my sister died and I live in fear that she will die and leave me just like my younger sister left my mom.

My faulty logic says that little sisters die; I am so afraid that I will lose her. Her presence is one of the biggest comforts to me, which makes me love her more than her sister.

losing my sister

There, I said it: I love one kid more than the other.

What can I say? What else is there to do but keep pushing on, trying to move past a pain that is so old and yet so fresh.

I love you, Wends, and I will see you one day.

I Couldn’t Save Her

When I was 15, my childhood best friend tried to kill herself.

My family had moved away two years before, so I wasn’t there. I wasn’t the one in school who she told that she’d swallowed all the Tylenol. I wasn’t there to watch her life fall apart and hold her hand through it all. I wasn’t there to see her slow descent into that darkness.

But the truth is, I knew.

I knew from her letters, from the sporadic phone calls. I knew from other people’s letters. I had been waiting for that phone call telling me she’d done it. Honestly, I’d been afraid no one would call me. I was afraid to send her a Christmas card in case something had already happened.

But when it finally happened, she was okay.

She had her stomach pumped and was admitted to an in-patient adolescent psych facility. She came out with dyed black hair, a teen bipolar diagnosis, and a cigarette habit.

She came out unrecognizable.

The next summer, I went to stay with her for a week, as I had the summer before. It was different. It was scary. Everything was just a little bit off. I sat in the waiting room of her psychiatrist’s office while she went for a check-in.

At the end of the week, her mother took me aside and asked if she’d been acting weird. I kind of shrugged and half laughed, but her mother asked again, telling me she was serious. That was when I realized something I hadn’t quite gotten before.

I was supposed to be watching her.

She stayed with me for a week after that. We went to the boardwalk. She flirted with the 20-year old ride attendant, and skipped down the boardwalk singing American Pie at the top of her lungs. She listened to the Beatles constantly, flipping the cassette of Abby Road over in the player whenever it ended, the music running all night long.

I was afraid. I was sad. I wasn’t strong enough to keep her from slipping out of control.

After that summer, there weren’t any more letters. I got a Christmas card from her a few years later, but I didn’t answer it. I didn’t call on her birthday anymore.

I’ve never really forgiven myself for that. If I could see her again, I would tell her I’m sorry, that I wish I could have been there for her, that I wish I had known how to be present and accepting of everything she was going through.

But I was 15.

I taught high school for 5 years, and if 15 year old me had been in one of my classes? I would have hugged her. I would tell her that it was a lot to handle. I would tell her that it wasn’t her responsibility to keep someone else from slipping.

I would tell her that it wasn’t her fault.

I guess I’m just not ready to tell myself that yet.

Ask The Band: Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?

I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-

-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when its ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming.. has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings—because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her—has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which, at the time, I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much) that, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. So once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings that I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you re-connect with yourself? How did you re-connect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?

Getting Lost is Easy, But How Do You Get Back?

I spent the last many years married to a woman with fairly severe (clinically diagnosed) Borderline Personality Disorder. I could very easily fill an entire book writing about what that experience was like, so it’s hard to know how to distill it. Here are some things I know-
-Years of being subjected to masterfully performed gaslighting has left me very unsure of all my own judgements and perceptions of reality.
-Years of being degraded and emasculated when I wanted to discuss my thoughts/feelings, being told that it is unattractive for a man to show “weakness” to his wife, has left me uncertain of when it’s ok to be vulnerable with other people.
-Years of walking on eggshells, trying so hard to do and say everything just right, but knowing that no matter how well I did, the next blow-up/emotional attack was always coming, has left me perpetually anxious, and steeped so heavily in learned helplessness that I often struggle to even feel that I have any control over what happens in my life. I never used to be that way at all.
-Years of having all my contributions and accomplishments minimized or forgotten, and all my imperfections magnified and carefully score-carded, has left me with close to zero sense of self-efficacy.
-Years of living with someone who is intimacy avoidant and uninterested in sex, but being told the whole time that her disinterest is caused by my shortcomings–because I didn’t last long enough in bed, or because I lasted too long in bed (yes, both of those), or because of the stress I was causing her by me not making us enough money (even when I was bringing in over six figures a year), or because I was paying too much attention to (suffocating) her, or because I was not paying enough attention to (neglecting) her– has left my self confidence so damaged that I almost fear being intimate with someone again.
Probably the worst part, though? During the early “idealization” phase of the relationship, she was incredibly jealous and protective of my attention (which at the time I foolishly believed was just because she loved me so much).  So, focusing all of my time and attention on her needs, I greatly distanced myself from any male friends I was close to, and completely cut off contact with all of my female friends. Once she flipped me into the devaluation phase, I was left with a partner who had zero interest in me, other than what I could fix or provide for her, and only weak remnants of friendships remained. I was effectively isolated to the point that I spent most of my free time just sitting alone in my basement, wishing things were different.
Isolation is definitely one of my biggest hurdles right now. I’d really like to make some new friends, particularly some female friends since I lost all but one or two, but no clue where to even start. I just really miss having more meaningful conversations and connections with people.
Another hurdle is figuring out how to integrate “what I know to be true” with “what I feel to be true.” For example, I can write down a list of all of my business/financial accomplishments, and objectively say I’ve been successful in that area. I know this to be true. But I do not feel that this is true. I can find endless examples of things I’ve done or experiences I’ve had that show most of the negative feelings I mentioned above are illogical or don’t line up with reality. But again, I still don’t feel that.
I would love any thoughts or advice from anyone who has gone through something similar. What worked? What DIDN’T work? How did you reconnect with yourself? How did you reconnect with other people and build some new meaningful friendships/relationships?

My Heart is Broken

Today, my heart is broken. Some people that touch your life just become part of your journey. Diontae and I met in the summer of 2015. He had transferred to Olive Branch as an Assistant Manager and I was a part-time head cashier. We were the new kids, so we closed together a lot. When you spend as much time with people as we did, you make connections.

Diontae became my work husband. We kidded about this all of the time, but we had each others backs. You all know the person. The one that you go to complain to so you don’t take the stress of the job home to your family. The person who just GETS the struggles of the day to day grind of your store. You learn each other’s kids names, talk about your families, dish about the newest gossip.

I thank the stars for him at that time in my life.

I left that store in April of 2017 for personal reasons. At the time, he was my direct supervisor. The first person I called when I walked out of my store was him, my work husband. He understood why I did what I did. Yet I felt horrible, because I was losing an important person in my life.

I came back to the same company in May of this year, just at a different store. The first time I called him for some information for a customer at my current store, he told me that my old position was open and that he wanted me back. Every time I spoke to him, he’d say the same thing.

Today my heart is broken.

My first work husband is dead. He left behind a daughter and a family that loved him deeply. He also left behind a work family that loved him wholeheartedly.

Today, the world is a little less bright without Diontae in it.

The Day My World Crashed

I lost my best friend, my very first true best friend, the one who taught me how to love and how to be loved back, to suicide in July 2015. The following is my thoughts when I found out he had taken his own life…

…4 months after it happened.

You see, we had lost touch and I had made myself invisible to everyone around him. I don’t typically believe in regret – it only leads to negativity – however in this case I truly regret leaving his circle. I’m still not sure why I felt it necessary. I missed his memorial. I missed the late night call. I missed saying goodbye.

Because the brain is a funny thing, I seem to have blocked out most of the hardcore grieving.

So here, from my Facebook and various platforms, the recounting of my thoughts and feelings during that time:

November 11, 2015

The journey of life is such a strange thing. I just learned that the person who was my light when I couldn’t see through the darkness left this life a few months ago.

November 12, 2015

I woke up this morning and he was still gone. It wasn’t all just a horrible nightmare giving me chills while I sleep. It’s real life.

I went to sleep crying and I woke up crying. My 2 year old keeps asking why I’m crying. Mommy’s just sad baby. So very sad.

“There will come a day when the joy runs out. Do not ask “What could I have done?” but instead ask “What will I do now?”  Think of me when you hear music, and laugh at something you remembered me saying. Know that I am silent and still, and believe me when I say that sweet nothingness is preferred to this life of disgrace, heartache, and pain. I will be no longer be a burden. There will come a day when the joy runs out.”

Pat wrote this on his Facebook February 18th, 2012.

I don’t recall what inspired him to write it, but I saved this note because he put his soul into words.

Words that rang true, unfortunately, way too soon.

So tonight, at Pat’s request, I’m asking myself, “What will I do now?” Instead of the “What should I have done? What could have I done?” that has plagued me since I found out what had happened. Months ago. That I did not know had happened.

Months ago.

I lost him through choices that were very much my own. What will I do, now that my heart is incomplete? I will think of him when I hear music. I will laugh when I remember something he said. I will remember that he isn’t here suffering in the prison of his dark thoughts and insecurities. I will continue to love him as if he were still here, because I don’t know how not to.

In a serendipitous way, he’s the reason that my husband and I are together today. I had stopped at Walmart to grab some books because I was preparing for an extended visit with my friend, Pat, who was having a rough night. The (future) husband just happened to be building a feature nearby. We got to talking and planned to hang out soon.

Three days later, we were sure that we’d never be apart again.

Pat officiated our wedding in the rose garden at Gage Park a year later to the day.

We had lost touch the last couple of years. I’d gotten busy raising kids and building our new extended family and Pat had been busy working and playing his beloved music. We met for coffee at Denny’s about two and a half years ago to catch up and share memories. He had changed and so had I and we couldn’t find our common ground anymore. We both just kind of let our relationship slip into fun memories and the occasional longing to be together, where we used to be.

I’m a firm believer that everyone comes into your life to give you a lesson, good or bad. Pat taught me many lessons in our time together; a hug is the best medicine, astrophysics is fascinating, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan and Alexei Filippenko are awesome to watch in lecture. That music is a piece of my soul and goes deeper than a Top 40 pop radio station. Today Pat is teaching me to not take for granted the people that come into your life unexpectedly and leave the same way.

I love you, Pat. I’ll forever miss your hugs and dumb Assy McGee references.

I’ll never forget your smile.

January 1, 2016

You’re on my mind a lot today, buddy. There was a curious string of songs in my Pandora shuffle and while I know that if you were here you’d tell me how silly I was being and it’s just a coincidence, but I can’t help but think that it’s you giving me a little boost when you know the day is rough.

Miss you, been missing you. Wish I could tell you that.

(To my friend in a private chat) I can’t say this on my picture because it’s too public. But I’m having such a hard time dealing with his loss.

It’s like a shot to the gut. I feel like I failed him. He couldn’t function on a “hey how ya doing” every six months. He was a full-contact, likes-to-hang-out-in real-life type of guy.

I knew that about him and I just, I feel so badly that I let him grow away from me.

That I let myself become a part of his list of “people that don’t give a shit” because I totally gave a shit. I guess I’m really struggling with what I know his last thoughts were before he took his life.

I know he was listing off all the people that had failed him because I talked him down from that thought before. Many times. I have a Facebook messenger full of me talking him down from that. I wasn’t there that time to talk him down from that.

I know that’s not fair of me to put that on myself. I know that intellectually, but it hurts my heart so fucking much.


This. This haunts me so

He was there for me in my bad time. I was there for him in many of his bad times. I wasn’t there in his last bad time. I don’t know.

I feel selfish. For not trying harder to make him a part of my life. I’m struggling in the shoulda coulda woulda. It’s a favorite past time of mine. I keep pep talking myself “You didn’t know, There’s no way you could’ve known, he shut himself off, too”. I’m just really struggling today. I’ve been in tears for hours. I’m just struggling with my choices. I’m hurting.

February 23, 2016

It’s your birthday today. Normally, I’d be constructing some smart assed email joking about getting old and having you sneak goodies in to me at the nursing home. Instead I’ll be heading out to see your headstone in the country, along with the kiddos so I’m not tempted to be out there for too long. Missing you Pat. Today and everyday. Happy Birthday.

July 3, 2016

It’s been a year. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year. What I wouldn’t give for a Pat hug today. Instead, I’m watching astrophysics documentaries, some of your very favorites, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson and of course Alexei Fillipenko. They’re not the same without you here to dumb them down for me, but it feels like the right thing to do.

I’m looking forward to catching up with your family later today and celebrating your life and sharing memories. Until we meet again, I love you and miss you so, so much.

July 3, 2017

It’s been 2 years that you’ve been gone. I still miss you every day. I find myself in tears when I come across random 6 ft tall bald dudes, with sweet beards sporting some chucks. There are more of those than you would expect. It’s never you, if only I could convince my brain to stop looking. What I wouldn’t do for one more Pat hug. Love dove.

February 23, 2018

Happy Birthday dear friend. Watching some Cosmos tonight and thinking of you. Miss you so much, today and every day.

“when you meet that person.. a person. one of your Soulmates. Let the connection, relationship be what it is. It may be five mins, five hours, five days, five months. Five years. A lifetime. Let it manifest itself, the way it is meant to. It has an organic destiny. This way if it stays or if it leaves, you will be softer from having been Loved this authentically. Souls come into, return, open, and sweep through your life for a myriad of reasons, let them be who and what they are meant.”

― Nayyirah Waheed