Friday, November 15, 2013

I cannot find all the words.

Hi.  I know, it's been a really long time.  So I won't apologize, but there's just been tons of feelings and life and darkness and laundry and business going on that I found it harder and harder to you know, write something someone would actually want to keep reading let alone anything that would help anyone.  But something happened that brought me out of everything because if I don't write about it I feel like I will scream or break something or curl up into a ball and shut the world away.  I'm good at doing two of those things (don't really break things but I could try?) but I don't want to do them, lest they converge and I turn into one of those frantic cartoon characters running around whilst hitting themselves over the head with a frying pan.  So I will tell you instead in the hopes that someone will read this and it will help them, because I cannot help my family in the way that I want to.  So this is me trying to help in the most nebulously vague, powerless, ineffective way possible.

A member of my extended family committed suicide yesterday.  And their parent, who is related to one of my parents, did not tell us.  They did not call my parent to tell them - in fact, another member of my family instead messaged me on social networking to tell me.  And then I called my parent to tell them the news.  And then I went into the bathroom at the doctor's office waiting room, clutched the sink and cried.  "I'm so, so sorry" I said out loud, to that person, to no one, to myself.  It felt like it all. 

The person that took their own life was an alcoholic and drug addict (from reading here or elsewhere you probably know by now that all alcoholics are addicts whether or not they also use other substances; that their drug of choice is alcohol, and that alcohol is also a drug) and had gotten multiple DWIs, had been incarcerated as a result of either the DWIs or something else related - we don't know the story because there have been so many secrets.  

"Secrets keep the family sick", I've learned in recovery.  It was always a secret, or partially a secret, how this person was doing, what they had done now, what was going on in that house at all.  And my parent has played intermediary in that family for decades now - their whole life probably - and their role as peacekeeper, communicator, message-person, translator and investigator is being tested to the extreme right now.  If there is a really shitty medal of honor or badge out there for this kind of work, they've earned their stripes.  They've tried to learn more about what happened, but we don't know a lot, because the lost one's parent can't or won't disclose much.  I tried to understand why we weren't informed thinking well, it just happened yesterday, perhaps they needed time.  I could not and cannot imagine the pain and guilt they are experiencing.  But I think what upset my parent was that other family knew and were instructed not to say anything on social media, and when my parent called the other parent, they wanted to know "who told you?"  It felt strange.  But I suppose there aren't procedures for these situations. 

So I preface all this with the apology that I don't have all the details, so I am feeling and thinking only by what I know to be true, along with my gut, my own feelings and thoughts and assumptions.  Maybe that's not fair, and I try to be objective, but it's what I got.

This person's parent is also an alcoholic.  I would say "recovering" because they are sober, and for a long time now, but they are not really working any program, though they had attended AA while getting sober and staying sober in the beginning.  I don't explain this to judge, but to illustrate the type of house that my family member grew up in.  There wasn't drinking, but the parent was a "dry drunk" (same/similar behavior, no alcohol) and there was abuse - verbal, physical, emotional, psychological.  And as the only child, they took all of it - there was no one else to absorb the blows. 

This person's parent says there will be no funeral, no wake, no nothing.  No obituary.  And it feels like an insult, a brush-off, a selfish, self-centered avoidance, and a forgetting.  This person existed, they loved and were loved.  So many of us want the chance to pay our respects, to grieve as a family, to honor this person's life.  And we must do that alone, or by telephone with each other across the miles, or by Hallmark card filled with words we don't know to write and just hope it gets across our love, our grief, and how so, so sorry we are.  "Where are all the words?" I keep wondering.  I can't find them.  There are words that make sense and yet I cannot seem to string anything together that would be of any sense or comfort.  Someone out there has all the words, I know they do.  They would know them and pick them out and put them together just right and help and make it better at least for a little bit.  

To put it all very simply - I am angry.  I am very, very angry.  And I am incredibly, hopelessly and just deeply sad for this person who was in so much excruciating agony and despair that they ended their life to escape it.  Also, though I can't say I really knew this person at all, I feel guilt.  Maybe I should have reached out.  Having been in Al Anon, I could have offered support from the place of recovery, or at the very least family friendship.  Of course I understand that this was no one's "fault", that we have our choices.  Things are just very cloudy right now, they're muddled; they don't feel cut & dry, black and white.  Everyone is saying things that feel true but also feel untrue and unfair.

"They don't want a funeral because they know it's 90% their fault that this happened" one family member told me.  

Ouch.  And yet, yeah, kinda.  Probably.  They probably do at least feel that way, completely consumed by their guilt though they say things like "We just have to get past this", that they contributed to the pain and suffering of that person with their abuse.  The withholding of love and parenting and healthy things and the replacement with wounds of all kinds and enabling and excuse-making and more wounds and lots of yelling.  (Sidenote: "We just have to get past this"?  Get past it?  It just happened!  Yesterday!  That's like trying to get past the eye of the hurricane that you woke up in one morning.  WE ARE IN IT.  How can we get past it?  And just 24 hours later?  This was me being very angry.  You aren't thinking or acting like I would so you are wrong, you're just wrong.  Also, yes, it's a very "in the disease" way of thinking to just try to get over your kid's suicide, already).

Addiction as a family disease seems to be the "gift that keeps on giving" and I see the effects of it have been at the core of All The Crazy Crap that we have heard about for years.  "Your family is insane!" some people say, when they hear some of the Crap.  Like certain people not talking to other certain people because they had promised to watch the Royal Wedding with them and didn't, because they didn't realize it was on at 3 o'clock in the bloomin' morning, as they'd say.  Apologies were for naught, and the silent treatment lasted a whole 2 years.  TWO. YEARS.  Kate and Wills had no idea.

This is just a small, small example.  I'm not trying to be funny - this happened.  Really.  

Today, after I had talked to my parent and the person's various family members, I called my husband to tell him.  He was at work, but I thought I should tell him before he got home for lunch.  My very distraught reasoning told me that this was better, cleaner, simpler than having to tell him in tears in person when he got home.  So I called him.  "Let's not be dramatic" I thought as the rings went by. *ring* I'll just calmly deliver the news and he can come home later and eat the sandwich that I'm ordering because I'm too tired to cook. *ring*  Maybe I'll order him a cookie, too.

And that's when I lost it.  When I talked to my parent, you see, I was angry.  I was angry at the lost person's parent for so many reasons, and I couldn't and wouldn't tell them, so the tone, only the tone of what I said to my parent was: "Who do they think they are?  WHAT are they DOING?  DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY'RE DOING?  DO THEY EVEN CARE?"  And I slammed the steering wheel with my hands.  

But when I told my husband, something shifted and welled up in me and came out of my eyes and my nose and my mouth.  I realized as I was speaking that I'm talking to someone who, had their parent stayed around, could have grown up in the same issues, and for some of their childhood did.  And that at some level there is the same feeling of abandonment and pain and a grief that no substance can disappear from one's life, even if that person's parent is "there", but in my husband's case especially when they are not.  So it felt like I was having two different but parallel conversations.

"I just feel so horrible for be in that much pain to do that..."
"That poor kid...just never had a chance..."
" never really have (that parent) feel so's just such a shame..."

He was so supportive, his immediate reaction and everything else he said was completely correct and appropriate and I loved him for that.  When he came home for lunch, he hugged me and held me and I cried harder, because why was I being comforted?  I am not the one who needs this.  The one who needs this is gone from this world and I was so angry that I couldn't somehow transport the comfort and love and support my husband was sending me through his embrace directly to my lost one and say, I'm so, so sorry.  I'm just so sorry.  I love you.  You were worth more than any of this.  If I had known, I would have tried to do anything.  We all would.  Though I completely know in my head that it was their horrible decision to do what they did, my heart keeps asking "Was it?  Was it their choice?  Did they completely and freely make that choice?"  Considering the circumstances of their life and experiences, of which I hardly know everything, I'm really not sure.  But it's the type of situation that I think those of us who understand think ah, I see.  It's the horribly sad picture that makes horribly sad sense.

Another reason I'm angry is that I'm angry at myself - I am not an innocent in this story.  Growing up, and before Al Anon, the stories I heard of this person's latest "incident" were ones I would repeat, incredulous and disgusted, though saying "Well, what do you expect with a parent like theirs?  They're just like them huh?"  It wasn't until learning about addiction and seeing it in my own family that it made complete horribly sad sense.  

The last time I saw this person, they were a kid just like me.  They were younger than me.  They ran and laughed and played and horsed around just like the rest of us.  They grew up with very different parents than mine and things did not turn out the same for us.  I remember one time when they visited us, their parent took them in a back bedroom and abused them, for something they seemingly did wrong.  We heard everything.  "What did they do?" I asked my parent, terrified.  They said nothing and just shook their head.  When it was over, they came out and the lost one was crying.  

"Crocodile tears, eh?" my parent said to their parent, in front of them.  
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"It means crying for no reason, pretending", my parent said.

And I thought Oh, good, they're ok.  There's no reason to cry.  What a funny thing to do, have actual tears come out that mean nothing.  

Tonight I tried to do my own avoiding through active talking.  It was too uncomfortable to sit with it all in silence or watch tv or eat more food that I wasn't hungry for, so I endlessly dialed people to talk to so I could get it out of my head.  Talking = less feeling.  The more I talk, the more it will be okay.  My parent wasn't answering and no one else was either, and so I filled up countless voicemails with the same "Hey...just calling to talk..." messages.  Which ended up being okay, because here I am with you fine folks.  

I called the parent earlier tonight and was filled with fear, afraid because I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what they would say.  It's one of those Adult Conversations you have to make eventually - passing on condolences to a loved one whose lost a loved one - and my inexperience (and the fact their loved one took themselves out of our lives on purpose) raced my heart and tied up my tongue.  I told them I was so, so sorry, that I was thinking of them all and my heart goes out to them.  Soon we were interrupted by another call on their end, and I admit I felt a little relieved that I didn't have to be afraid of ruining my best-intended thoughts through shitty transportation.

Not really sure how to end this post so I'll just say this: if anyone reading this has lost someone to suicide, or has a loved one who has attempted suicide, my heart is with you as it is with them.  Sending lots of love everyone's way.  Time to go to bed.