Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Friends

In my life, I've had people that I considered friends. They were people I went out with, to the movies, to their house, to restaurants. In one case, it was a coworker who helped me go shopping for grownup clothes back when I first started my job. She also went to the movies with me a fair amount, and occasionally lunch. In another case, in college, she invited me over to her house and made pizza together (that was fun, but also weird because she didn't have allergies so she didn't run her furnace fan all the time to clean the air, which meant her house was oddly silent). We traded books to read and had lots of talks.

You get the idea, right? I mean, it certainly looked like friendship. They willingly spent time in my company, just with me, and did so repeatedly.

Yet I must have been missing something. Because each of these people just vanished out of my life one day.

The co-worker took medical leave from work and never came back. Never contacted me. Didn't make a single attempt to maintain what I thought was a pretty good friendship. I didn't have her email or phone number, and it was over a year before she got officially let go, and I'd just kept hoping she'd be back soon.

The college friend vanished even more abruptly. Her email address went dead ("undeliverable"); her car, a very distinct bright yellow 1950s type convertible, was no longer around (and I used to see it a lot, just on the road, randomly, as we went to the same places to shop, albeit at different times). Her phone number just rang and rang.

I think perhaps something serious happened to them. Maybe something dreadful. Kidnapped, or mental breakdown so severe she couldn't remember her friends from before.

And then I think they just didn't like me. That they took the opportunities they were given (leaving work; maybe moving somewhere else) to cut all ties with me, instead of telling me straight up that they didn't want me hanging around them any more.

I can be a very clingy friend. I try not to be, but then I'm afraid I come off as distant and uncaring. I don't seem to be able to find balance in many things in my life, and friendship is definitely one of those unbalanced sort of things.

And sometimes, when I haven't had enough sleep and I'm truly getting paranoid, I wonder if the college friend even ever existed. (I know the coworker did. I've mentioned her name since she left and had people know who I was talking about. And yes, I did it to make sure she, at least, was real.) But I don't know anybody else who knew my college friend.

I don't even remember her name now.

Isn't that a creepy thought? That I could have made up a person and believed so truly in what I made up that I don't even know if she's real or not? I probably should not have watched that movie, A Beautiful Mind, or I wouldn't know that sort of thing was possible for the human brain to do to itself.

I wish I knew if other people had friends just vanish. No note, no good bye, no "I got a job in California we'll keep in touch" and then don't (the keep in touch part).

Sunday, July 3, 2016

What Do You Do After You Get Everything You Ever Wanted? -- Ramblings on Grief

Trigger warning: If you've lost someone recently, or the grief is really bad, you might want to go away now.


By the time I was 31 I had everything I'd ever wanted. Mainly because I had never been one to dream big. I wanted attainable things, and I got them.

I had a beautiful (both character and body) cat friend who I loved very much who loved me back. I had my parents, married happily to each other for most of their adult lives, who I loved very much and who loved me back.

I had a good job making enough money to buy what I really wanted (as opposed to "it would be nice to have that") and I'd had the same job since I graduated. (I really like stability and routine ... part of the autistic me).

And now I had a house, of my very own, that I was paying for over time (like a normal person!). I was not a burden on society. I was not institutionalized despite the many chronic, silent diseases I had (still have--and now I have more of them). A pretty little house in a good neighborhood with nice people on my street and a yard just the right size, not too small, perhaps a little bigger than I wanted but there was that giant oak tree in the middle of the back yard that I loved that would have been impossible with a smaller yard.

I had graduated from college and had a job in the same field I'd studied in.

I had a small group of friends and we met every week to play board games which I loved doing and loved being around them.

And this, dear readers, is everything I'd ever wanted. Friends, family, financial stability, independence, and love. (No, not romantic love. I'd never wanted that, and still don't.)

They say thirteen is unlucky. It's unscientific. It's superstitious.

And in 2013, Pippin, my beautiful, loving cat died, and as if he was the linchpin that held everything together, my world was torn apart.

What do you do when you have everything you ever wanted? You watch it all get ripped away from you, that's what you do.

It's melodramatic. It could be worse. I mean, my parents are still alive, even though my dad had a seizure three months after Pippin passed away that left him in the hospital for a few days. (Medication induced, by accident). He's fine. He's his old self, although he's retired now so it's a different "old self" than the one that worked 40 hours a week and thought it part-time work since he was used to working 80 or more hours a week.

I still have the same house. There's probably mold in the walls that I caused by installing a whole-house humidifier and not using it responsibly ... I haven't had the courage to pay someone to come confirm my suspicions.

Even still have the same friends, who have put up with a lot from me as I grieved in agony, developed several more anxiety disorders, and changed in personality so much that they probably wonder what happened to the me they used to know.

My anxiety says they probably liked that person better. I don't even want to play the board games I enjoyed so much anymore. I do, sometimes, and sometimes I don't, and sometimes I don't even go.

Pippin was such a stable point in my life. He was someone I could love and care for in my own, smothering way, and he enjoyed it and thrived under such care. He accepted me for who I was, even if I was crying in great gulping tears over something my boss said to me that day. (I said I had everything I ever wanted, not that my life was perfect!) He was always there for me, a steady, constant presence in my house.

Even if I ignored him too much and stayed out with friends too much and spent too much of that precious, precious time with him asleep or watching tv or doing things that didn't involve him. He still loved me, loved any time I spent with him. At least I took him with me when I went on vacations, until he got older and it got too hard to figure out where to stay when I got there (most places aren't cat-friendly) and then I just stayed home.

It's been almost three years, and I still miss him. It still hurts. Sometimes it hurts just as much. And I had so much support from friends and family during that first, horrible year without him, where I had no one "in his place", that I hate to tell them that it didn't work. All that support, all that outpouring of love to me, all that you did. It didn't work. It helped only a tiny bit. I still need it. But I can't ask for it; I won't ask for it--that much support is exhausting to give ... for me to give to someone else, so I assume it's the same for them giving it to me--and it's not fair to ask for that kind of support years and years later.

It doesn't feel like it's been years ago. Despite having three (!) cats now, all of whom I love, I still miss Pippin like he was just here. A moment ago.

I wish I were a child again, where three years was ever so long and couldn't be comprehended, and it was only my birthday the next year that took forever and ever to get here. I wish time didn't rush by so fast. I wish it didn't hurt so much.

When in fact, it doesn't "hurt so much". I miss him. I feel torn apart inside. I feel quite a lot of pain because he's just not here anymore. But it doesn't hurt "so much." Because I remember what it actually felt like right after he died, in those first few months, and it hurt so much more than it does now.

And I wonder how I stayed sane. It hurts now, it hurts a lot ... but it hurt exponentially worse in those first months.

Of course, I'm writing a secret blog in a public forum, so perhaps the question of my sanity should be shelved for a while.

But I saw something today, something that is really true, that says it better than I can.
I understand now that with each death, each passing of someone you love, that grief is absorbed into who you are. It never goes away. It never stops hurting--unless you stop feeling anything at all, anyway. And it piles up, the pain of loss, the grief, each one layering on top of the other, complicating your personality, making it deeper, more complex, but more to my point, more full of pain.

I used to want to live forever. I liked shows and books about people who could. Immortals and vampires and so on and so forth. I didn't understand why all humans didn't hunger to live forever.

Well, now I know. Because if you love, and it hurts so much when the people you love die, and that pain never really goes away, then after a while, by the time you're old, you're ready to leave it all behind you. Who would want to keep living with all that pain?

And right now, it doesn't feel like grief adds layers on top of me, like someone piling on blankets until it smothers me. It feels like grief rips holes out of me. Big holes, little holes, depending on how much I loved someone, how much I knew them. My uncle died (unexpectedly) last November. I loved him a great deal but I didn't know him as a person very well. Now I never will.

What happens when there's not enough left of me to rip more holes out of? I guess I just have to keep creating more me so there's more to take; the alternative is to shut down and not love anybody, and although I considered it seriously during the worst of the grief for Pippin, I decided I wasn't capable of doing that. Yet.

Pippin ... he was a person, albeit four-footed and furry. He had a lovely personality. He had a great sense of humor and was very patient. He saw me as the strongest person in his world, and because I didn't want to let him down, I was that person for him.

Now I'm not that person. My companion cat people aren't grown up yet. They don't even know who they are going to be, much less who they expect me to be (other than someone to hang out with and love and be loved in return ... which is helpful but doesn't help me be a strong person emotionally).

Maybe one of things I miss the most about Pippin is his faith in me, his complete, unwavering confidence that I would always be there for him. And maybe that's why the grief is still so horribly raw when I think on it. Because I wasn't there for him. Not at the end. He had a brain tumor. Progression of less than a week. Severe symptoms less than 24 hours. He couldn't jump, couldn't stabilize himself, couldn't land. He couldn't be on the bed with me, where he slept every single night of his life. He died on the floor. As close to me in the bed as he could get. And I slept through it. I slept through it. I wasn't even there to hold him.

I don't tell people that part. I don't tell them that I wasn't there for him in the end. That he died alone. That I was callously asleep. I should have slept on the floor that night. I should have slept there with him. Even if I'd slept through it ... He could have been against me, felt my heart beating as his slowed and stopped. Had that one last reassurance.

But instead I slept through the night, waking up only once, to hear scrabbling noises, like he was shoving his head into the corner to put pressure on his temples (it helps headaches, which cats don't normally get and the tumor was giving him). That's where I found him, his head in the corner of the big jewelry box and the wall, lying there with his tail against the bed, on his side, one paw stretched out like he most always did while he slept. He wasn't in pain when he died. He couldn't have, not and been positioned in a "happy sleep" mode like that. But if only I'd gotten up when I heard him.

Before he died I used to cry at the drop of a hat. I tear up now, but I don't cry. I don't even remember crying more than three or four times for him. I just aimed all that grief, the loss, the anger, the self-loathing, the incredible emotional pain, inward at my body and soul.

I lost fifty pounds ... people fuss that I'm too thin now ... I call it Pippin's last gift to me.

I don't tell anybody that, either.

Yes, I've tried therapy. Multiple times. They don't get it. Worse than useless. I guess I just have to live with the holes.