Living For Those I’ve Lost

Potential. There’s this phrase, “…living up to your potential.” Yet, we all have that potential to do and be great. That’s a weight we as humans carry around like an invisible backpack strapped tight to our shoulder blades. How are we using this time we’re given to reach that potential that people put upon us? Better yet, the potential we all know we have but at times just don’t feel like doing anything with.

I recently wrote about questioning my worthiness and grief playing apart of that. I’ve been examining my grief with a magnifying glass. Parts of it are still so foreign that I can’t make them out while others continue to sting like a fresh sunburn still out in the sun. Grief is a piece of my soul that vibrates with each breath that raises my chest.

I’ve been picking apart this notion of my own potential. I feel like I’ve grabbed those invisible backpacks of my brothers and thrown them on my back, too. I want to do so much but the thought of all this potential combined is just paralyzing. Where do I start? What do I need to do for them so that they have a spark of fulfillment within my doing? Living for those I’ve lost is interlaced with self doubt and an urgency for their legacy.

February is a grueling and exhausting month. I lost my dad (Bubba) on the 18th and my brother (Adam) on the 25th. I remember those days like a movie I’ve watched over and over again. It doesn’t feel as if I’ve lived them as much as experienced them on a level unknown to the mind and body. How can I live up to their potential if I’m unable to navigate my own movements.

Who Me, Anxious?

I didn’t realize that I was having a panic attack until I was preparing to fly back home to Ohio when we lost my brother Josh. I was on the phone with my doctor asking about something completely different and the concern in his voice made me feel terrible! But of course, him being the amazing human that he is, he guided me into a small space of comfort and I began to breathe in a more relaxing state but not quite back to normal. That’s when he dropped the bomb of reality on me. “You’re having a panic attack.”

Boom! What? How could that be? Shouldn’t I know if I have a panic attack? Wouldn’t I be able to read my own body and know when it’s going haywire? Apparently not.

I didn’t have time to reevaluate my reality or perception of my emotions and reactions. My doctor said he was going to prescribe me something to help me on my disturbing journey home and we could talk about it when I got back to Austin. However, when I picked it up at the pharmacy the pharmacist told me to be careful because it would turn me “into a zombie” so I didn’t take it at all. Looking back I wish I would have taken it. It wasn’t until I got back and spoke with my doctor that I decided to use it when I needed it.

Fast forward to the current day and the state of affairs that are happening globally. My anxiousness can overflow my bloodstream as I read article after article and my heartbeats faster and faster until I feel it vibrating my brain. My mind goes straight to two main fears and unfortunately, with an anxiety filled mind or not, I fully believe them to be accurate beliefs and fears.

My mind goes to the fear of my Mom being exposed to the virus that’s taken over our Mother Earth. Not only is she “high risk” for catching it due to her suppressed immune system, she’s SUPER “high risk” for complications of the virus. So I try to calculate how she can be exposed and how likely is it to actually get to her. Many times I believe she’s taking all the precautions she can and there’s a faint chance of her coming into contact with it. All her doctors are canceling her appointments & tests, she doesn’t leave her home too often and her friend is helping where she can. THEN! That’s when I realize! Starr has to go out into the world to help my Mom and she’s going to bring it to her unknowingly! Or my grandparents, one has Alzheimer’s pretty bad now, but the other one is dragging the other out to eat and whatnot. My Mom has stopped going to their house to visit. But that won’t last too long because it’s my Mom’s Mommy who has Alzheimer’s and she wants to be with her as much as she can before she forgets who her first born is. (My heart shattered into a million pieces as I typed that out.)

Next thing that flashes bright in my face like a spotlight heating me up and I’m sweating while panting out of breath; A thought that haunts me daily but it’s now under a microscope and I see it so clearly. The idea of me contacting the virus and due to my underlying health issues, I succumb to it and leave my parents childless. What an appalling thought to even stomp around in my body but it does. I can feel it in my spine, in my stomach, on the back of my neck.

Anxiety is something, at times, I’m not able to control and that’s extremely hard to admit. My mind races with fears and realities that I’m not able to contain and I can feel angry or I can feel overwhelming heartsick. The anger is something new to me so that’s even more combating. I try to recognize it when it starts oozing into my being, yes my being because it fills my entire body not just my mind. I can’t just snap out of it so I take walks, I take a shower and say everything I’m thankful for starting with the water. I cuddle with my puppy dog and sing or talk to her. I spend time with people who bring me happiness. Even then, it is still there so I spend sometime alone with my thoughts and let them be and try to talk through them.

Anyone else anxious like me?

Beginning Self Forgiveness

I’ve made numerous mistakes in my life. I’ve also made right choices. It’s figuring out how to find that forgiveness for myself, the kind where I’m always open to understanding the shortcomings or imperfections of others and seeing why or how they feel and do those hurtful things. But I seem to hold myself at a different standard. Like I’m not allowed to have a misstep and if I do, then I don’t deserve the same love and understand that I share with those around me. How dare I not see clearly the first time and wade through all the bullshit and come out unscathed.

Now is the time I have to change for myself. To look into my swollen red eyes that burn with the tears that have fallen down my rosy cheeks. To tell myself that loving someone and trusting them isn’t something to be ashamed of when it ends up being a mistake. How many times has forgiveness fallen upon those who may not have earned it, at least not at the moment I gave it to them.

So how do I go about this forgiveness? Do I replay all the failures and misjudgments to see where I went wrong? Then will I understand why I did what I did? Or should I start with a clean slate, tell myself that from this moment on I will take care of myself. That I will fill my cup until it’s overflowing with so much self-love and respect that I will never allow another person to mistreat me again. That I will set boundaries with those I care about so that I can continue to learn about myself and have myself dignity.

But I know that I’ll make more mistakes in my life. I’m only human, right? So I can do all those things I just listed but I have to make sure I learn from what I’ve already lived through. I have to go back to how do I forgive myself, how do I trust myself? It’s important to rewind back in time and feel those emotions that I felt when I realized I had made a mistake. I’m still holding onto those mistakes today and not just the present ones that flood my heart and mind of all these misdoings I’ve allowed to happen to me or just accepted when I should not have. It’s reliving the past so that I can heal today because I deserve my own forgiveness. I deserve to truly forgive myself so I can learn to trust myself.

I’m going to take this journey of self discovery and forgiveness. I know it’s going to be a rough and painful descend as I release myself into the murkiness of past trauma but it’s something that has to be done. I’m not sure how long this expedition will last but I know it’ll take some time. I have to unravel the thread and find my way. Each knot untied should lessen the guilt and sting I have held onto for far too long. I have to focus on…me.

 

 

What and Where Are Your Fears?

Fearful Girl
Fearful Girl

What are your fears? Where do these fears come from? Which ones follow you around each day lingering in the background waiting to pounce as soon as you’re ready to make a leap?

Just like happiness, I’m working on recognizing my feelings and understanding them when it comes to fears. Fear is a feeling that I’ve always struggled with, even as a small child. I’ve been afraid of my own feelings, my own thoughts and my own needs, along with unrealistic scenarios. I would fall into pits of fear and become frozen in that moment making it impossible to do what I really wanted or even speak the words I longed to hear slip from my tongue.

Recently, I’ve been able to look at my fears and see them for what they are. It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but it’s also one of the best experience I’ve ever had, too. I’m not saying that I’ve conquered all my fears because that’s FAR from the truth. I still have many fears that I’ve struggled with my entire life but I do my best to work through them each day and not just dismiss them until they creep up again and overwhelm all my senses.

One of my major fears is speaking my truth about my feelings and needs. May times my empathy can take over and I’m afraid that what I want or need will ultimately take away from what the other person wants or needs. I’m starting to understand that speaking my truth doesn’t take anything away from someone else. It simply releases my needs and allows someone else to know what I’m feeling. Sharing my feelings isn’t dismissing theirs but intertwining our truths. But it’s so much easier to write that out than to actually do when it comes to that time. When that fear to speak hits me it’s like my throat, tongue and lips have turned to cement. I’m literally trying everything in my power to move them and speak the words that are playing in my head but nothing comes out. I’m terror-stricken to the point of complete silence and my entire body is numb and feels like I’m wearing a weighted vest that’s suffocating me.

Most of my fears are emotional fears, yes, but I have a few that go along with my grief. A fear that I now hold since my brother Josh passed and I was made a lone sibling. I’m afraid I’m going to die before my parents. That fear follows me no matter where I go and it’s the heaviest of all my fears.  I’m afraid that I’m going to make them into childrenless parents and that breaks my heart over and over again.

So what do we do with our fears and how do we handle them? Well, we have to make a game plan. We have to decide to take steps each day to recognized them and see them for what they really are. For me, writing them down, reading through them and breaking them down has helped me. I try to make a timeline of when I first felt that way and why. Was that fear founded in truth of the situation or was I just afraid to speak my truth, know the truth or accept the truth? Some fears have been there so long that we don’t know where they initially came from so you break it down from the last situation you felt that exact fear. Fears like to hide and manifest in many different ways. We have to do our best to stop ourselves in our tracks when we see our fears taking over. Even if you have to walk away from the situation for a few minutes to understand yourself, it’s worth it.

Fears are scary! They can do a lot of damage but they can also help us grow. Let your fears help you and take control of them.

 

What and Where Is Your Happiness?

What is your happiness? Do you even know what or where it is? Are you afraid of your happiness?

I’ve been working on finding my happiness or should I say happinesses. Sometimes I forget that I have happiness in many different aspects, in different moments, feelings, activities, shapes. Sometimes my happinesses last for seconds, minutes, hours, and days. But it always passes which is apart of happiness. It can’t last forever.

Yes, that’s the phrase we all hate to hear, “It can’t last forever.” because we never want the happiness to leave. We want to be happy forever and never feel sad or hurt. Our goal is to always be happy but that’s not life. Happiness is fleeting but only in that specific moment. It finds its way back to us even if it takes longer than we’d like.

For me happiness is something I feel a lot of guilt having and truly feeling. This is a topic I’ve spoken about many times. The guilt that I am privileged to experience sincere happiness when my brothers, Josh and Adam, and my Bubba (my step-dad) no longer get to have is heartbreaking. The guilt, in an instant, can be paralyzing. My happiness disappears and I feel angry or sadness about losing them. And people say, “But they would want you to be happy.” or “They wouldn’t want you to feel this way.” That doesn’t change the emotions I bear during these times. It makes no difference what they would want, it’s how I feel.

So what is MY happiness? How do I find it and accept it? I have started telling myself that I’m worthy of happiness. That no matter what I have or haven’t done in my life, no matter what I have or haven’t said in my past, I am worthy of feeling happiness. And since happiness leaves us so quickly, I can’t allow a split second of it to pass without fully participating in that moment.

So some of my happinesses come from little things and big events. My happiness is living back in Texas where I am able to be physically active each day. I can walk my pups in the morning and the evenings no matter the time of year. My happiness is being with my nontraditional family of my significant other and our pups. My happiness is laying on the couch with my dogs and man watching tv. It’s tasting that delicious dessert I’ve been craving for days (sometimes weeks!) and just allowing the pleasure of tasting it to take over my mind and body. My happiness is getting a text of the campsite where my Dad is staying or a SnapChat filtered picture from my Mom. My happiness is having a career that I enjoy. My happiness is planning for my future and things I want to accomplish. My happiness is laying in the sun reading a book. My happiness is talking with my best friends. My happiness is exploring new cities.

But I also have happiness in other aspects. My happiness comes from learning to love myself. Looking at myself in the mirror and actually LOOKING at myself. The happiness of being able to enjoy being myself fully and completely. The happiness of setting goals for myself and knowing I can accomplish them all. My happiness is knowing that I have talents and I cannot waste them any longer.

So, I’ve found happiness again. And yes, it’s always fleeting just like yours. But we have to know that we are worthy of our own happiness. A happiness that no one else can give us but ourselves. A happiness that no one else can take away from us. Remember, we can never be happy always. We have to have moments of growth in pain and anguish. And happiness may hide away from time to time. But keep working on finding that happiness again because you are worthy of it. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now, you are. If I’m worthy of it, so are you.

 

“What Do You Want?”

Do you know what you want? You do ever ask yourself, truly ask yourself with a sincere tone as you would a dear friend, “What do you want? What do you need?”

We should all be talking to ourselves in a way we would our dearest friend who needs us. We should be our own best friend looking out for ourselves but I, myself, have an extremely difficult time doing that. I know I’m not unique in that which is even more heartbreaking.

I’m starting the plunge deep down inside my broken pieces, holding them up to the light and digging through the pain of the past to see where I want to go. I’m tired of the fear of the pain due to the past to continue to dictate the moves I make today. I can’t change what has happened in my life but I have to face those moments of earth shattering anguish to become a better person. Or at least see how I can grow from the deconstruction of what could have been.

Grief is a mistress in the dark lingering just behind that closed door. She jumps out without warning and pours her pain into your veins and shakes your thoughts to the ground. She fights to control your feelings as you melt into a puddle of misery. Your wounds are open and profound. Ask yourself, “What do I want?”

Do you want to stay in that puddle of torture? Do you want to continue to fear those thoughts that squeeze the life from you limbs?

I want to continue to love my brothers and my dad. I want to continue to remember how I felt with them. How a text or call could shine up my face. How their lives have fully intertwined into my soul and helped me become the person I am today, both the happy and the sad. I want to see the beauty in the world and not just the darkness that softly flows beside me.

I want to look in my own eyes staring back at me and see the beauty that someone else sees. I want to believe I can feel heartfelt joy and not feel ashamed of it. I want my naked truth to be seen by the world and not pitied for the pain I endure. I want to feel and give fearless love to myself and others. I want to believe in a journey of understanding and progress.

Now that I know what I want, what do I do now?

 

Adam, My Brother

“My brother died so leave me alone!” The first time I said those words I was in fourth grade. A group of us were jumping on Jamis’ trampoline and a couple of other boys came up to me and started making fun of me because my brother was gay.

“Your brother is a fucking fag! He sucks dick and puts stuff up his butt!” they yelled at me from the side walk.

I didn’t know what to do. I was embarrassed for both of us. I already knew that he liked boys because, as his baby sis, I just knew him. Before he ran away to Florida as soon as he turned 18 we were together ALL the time. He was my best friend. I just knew who he was fully and completely. But I didn’t know exactly what being gay entailed so the thought of anyone putting “stuff” up their butt seemed horrifying.

I jumped off the trampoline and ran the half block back to my house. We lived in a duplex up the street above a store. I ran up the stairs then I slowly opened the top door and calmly walked in the house. I stood in the hallway and could hear my mother’s voice in the living room trying to explain to someone that everything was fine. “No, seriously, I just clicked over from talking to him. He was just on the other line. Who said he was dead?”

Those boys lived just a block the other direction next to a cousin of mine and ran to tell her about Adam. She picked up the phone immediately and called my mother crying and confused. Why hadn’t anyone told her.

“I have to go. Let me call you back.” my mother told her.

“Abigail Faye, what the hell is going on?” my mother called to me from the living room. As I turned the corner she looked at me and said “Why would you say that Adam died? That is so messed up! What is wrong with you?”

“The West boys were making fun of me because Allfaye’s gay.” I said through tears rolling down my cheeks. “I didn’t know how else to make them leave me alone.” and I ran to my room.

A few minutes later our cousin was there and I was called into the living room. “Little lady, why would you say that Adam died? That’s a terrible thing to say.”

“Tavon and Taft were making fun of me because Allfaye’s gay.” I didn’t have the words to say that I was tired of them always teasing me and hurting my feelings. I didn’t know how to express the anger they filled me with. How I wanted to jump off that trampoline and punch them in the face and kick them while they were on the ground. The rage I felt when I heard their voices overwhelmed my senses.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said something that has stuck with me my entire life. “You should be proud of who your brother is. Don’t ever let someone else make you feel bad about who he is.” and she hugged me. She may have even said more but that’s what I remember the most. “Be proud.”

From that day on I told everyone I knew that my brother was gay if they asked and even if they didn’t. I told them about my gay brother and all the amazing things he did (even though most of them didn’t matter if he was gay or straight). If I was talking to someone who didn’t know my family dynamics then I’d say “my straight brother” or “my gay brother”.

The amount of pride I’ve always held for being the little sister of my two big brothers is powerful. The strength I’ve received from that power has helped me through a lot of turmoil. I’m so thankful Josh and Adam were my big brothers. I love them so.

 

 

***Names of people outside of my siblings have been changed to protect their identity

 

Moments of Balance in 2017

This year has been a year beyond struggle. The pain has been immeasurable and the anxiety and depression has taken a tight grip.

This past week I have done things differently than I usually do for the start of a new year. I have done some deep cleaning of our apartment, I have found some self improvement projects that begin tomorrow, January 1, 2018, and I went to the store so our refrigerator and pantry will be full for the start of our new year. I have to make a change or I will stay stuck in this hole.

So, I decided to to do something completely different than I usually do. I am going to remember things that brought me balance, happiness and/or joy, even if only for a moment in time. I’m not only going to look back on them, I’m going to write them down. Maybe this can help my soul as I remember all the painful moments over and over again without fail, that these moments can help balance out my overwhelming mourning.

Texting and FaceTiming with my nieces Shea and Puddle.

Sitting with friends outside of Mikey’s house just chatting and watching music videos on YouTube.

Going out to see Split with Pikki and Garrett.

Playing and spending time with Michael and Alexandra.

Being able to talk with Christina about our issues we shared.

Cuddling Brutus,

Going on walks and hikes with Brutus,

Cooking fresh chicken for Brutus,

Having a meltdown but have Brutus pull me out of it.

Cooking home cooked meals.

Eating out at two of our favorite restaurants.

Cuddling on the couch with Justin.

Watching a thousand Christmas movies that Justin loves.

Putting up a foot tall Christmas tree for Justin.

Going to DuQuoin, IL to visit my Mommy. First time we’ve been able to see each other in years just for the purpose of loving each other.

Talking with my Pops on the phone for an hour here or there.

Seeing large groups of blue birds, seemed as if they’ve followed me around this year.

Helping my first Buyer buyer their first home.

Going to Dallas to spend the weekend with Amber and Will.

Spending a week in Washington D.C. with Justin, his Mom and sister.

Working for JB Goodwin.

Meeting new people.

Writing this blog.

Having friends back home that I can still count on.

Getting the text that Ramon was finally born.

Spending time with Xuan and her family.

Being able to text, call or FaceTime Sarah whenever I need to, day or night.

I have to remember that there is still good in my life and there’s much more than what I’ve listed above. I have to figure out how to keep the balance. It can be so hard and overwhelming but it’s something I’m working on each day.

We can all do this together. We can continue to communicate with each other and support each other.

Depression and Grief Are Not The Same Thing

Depression and grief are not the same thing although they can coincide or trig the other.

Depression has been something I’ve struggled with my entire life. Grief has been something that has sprung up throughout my life but the past five years has not left my side.

As a young girl, I can remember hating myself. Hating the way I looked, the sound of my voice in my head, the way my hands looked as I wrote and colored, every little thing I did, that made me who I was, I hated. I have journals filled with spewing hatred about myself. My first thoughts of suicide came before the age of 6. I always felt as if I wasn’t good enough for my family. Maybe, if somehow, I was better, smarter, prettier, more fit, more athletic, funnier, happier, so much more, I could make their lives more fulfilling.

I struggled with nightly terrors. I had the same nightmare for years every single night. It never failed. We lived in Pennsylvania at the time and I would dream about a trailer we lived in on a hill (we actually lived there when the dreams started but continued even after we moved). It would start with an army of soldiers that would come marching from the right side of the property where the garden was. I could see them coming from far away and I would yell for my parents and brothers to come into the house but no one ever did. The soldiers would get up to us and I watched as they shot my father, then my mother. My brother Adam and I would hold hands and run into the house to hide with Josh running with us. Adam and I hid in a cabinet together and Josh hid in one by himself. I could somehow see though the walls. I watched as the soldiers came into the house, open the cabinet where Josh was and they would shoot him. Then they’d open the cabinet where we were hiding and shoot Adam, right there beside me. They never hurt me. They would leave after they killed everyone and I would be left alone, crying and begging for my family to wake up. Then I would see them all get shot again and again. I had that dream for years. I’ve had it about a dozen times since I’ve been an adult.

I’m sure that fed my depression as a young girl. My depression and anxiety would hold me so tightly I couldn’t speak. Still at times I would want to say something to someone but I physically couldn’t speak. It’s as if I was frozen and my tongue and throat couldn’t move. The words would repeat again and again in my head but nothing actually would come out of my mouth. That’s another reason I always wrote in notebooks or whatever I could find to write on/it. That still happens to this day.

I had a boyfriend in college who would get so frustrated with me because I would be upset but I couldn’t talk. I’d just grab my notebook and disappear to write. He once grabbed my notebook and said, “Fucking just say what you want! Don’t run away and write shit in this fucking book! Just say it!” If only he knew how badly I wanted to speak. I longed to say what was on my mind but I’ve always felt as if…maybe…maybe I didn’t deserve to feel what I was feeling. Maybe the pain I felt was because I wasn’t a good person or was doing something wrong. I thought, if I’m doing something wrong, or upsetting someone, why should I get to express my emotions. I was in a prison of self hatred with no self worth.

With grief in the picture, now I feel guilty about being upset because my dad and brothers don’t get to have feelings or emotions. Why should I get to have them when theirs were cut way too short? So my lifelong depression gets amplified with the grief of the loss I’ve consumed these past few years.

I know to many this all probably sounds crazy. And maybe it is. But depression can play some crazy games with your mind, with your thoughts, with your life. Maybe this is a new way for me to speak without having to use my physical voice. Or maybe it can be a voice for someone who feels or has felt the way I do or have.

I plan to write more on this topic, for now I need to stop.

 

Not A Day of Remembrance

No, today is not a day of remembrance. I remember you every single day. I think about you nonstop. I think of conversations we should be having and at times it feels as if they are happening, right here in this bruised mind of mine.

Today isn’t a day like the rest. It’s not a day to think of you and all the love we’ve shared and experienced together. Today isn’t a day to fondly look upon as if something should be remembered. Today isn’t a day for that. Today created the date to the right side of the hyphen.

That hyphen shouldn’t have that second date. Not yet. That hyphen should still be collecting memories and experiences you should be sharing with us. That hyphen holds more than just a dash between two days. It holds a lifetime of knowledge, understanding, support, fears, loss, heartbreak, love, relationships, family, friends, warmth, weakness, and strength. That hyphen, that dash, is life. That hyphen doesn’t belong there because you’re growth wasn’t finished.

Today is a day of anger. A day of anxiety and pain. If I could stop this day from coming, I would. I’d fight it off with the might of a dozen wolves protecting it’s pack. I’d tear through it leaving nothing behind, not even fragments of it’s existence to peer back at us. I would dismantle any torment felt on this day and create something new. I would make this day a day with no meaning.