I think about the alleged 5 stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance - a lot. I wonder if it was created to be linear, because like the stages of change, I am not sure that it is. I think it is more of a spiraled staircase, where we regularly revisit past stages until finally we reach the top; and who knows when we will actually reach it?
I find myself regularly re-visiting all stages of grief, and have never once landed in acceptance. Actually, as I type that I do remember that I have once landed in acceptance. It was right when everything happened last July, one year ago this month. Amidst the trauma, the only way my brain could really process was to latch on to logic. Logic that told me: "This did happen. You must accept the reality or you will sit here in this hospital for years, and never accept it at all." And that "acceptance" of logic is what got me through the first 24 hours.
I have not returned since.
Many days are depression. I wake up every morning feeling it happened either 10 years ago or that it happened yesterday; and every morning I have to process that before going through my day. The use of my frontal cortex to process this traumatic event in any capacity, first thing upon waking, is a drain to my energy. Some days - the 10 year days - are better. Some days are worse.
Then there is the nighttime, or the midday zoning out. If left in silence too long, I feel myself slide into denial, intertwined with bargaining. I can feel myself "alter reality." I replay past conversations and change my responses. I create new conversations that never happened. In my mind... I voice things from the past that I disagree with instead of feeling it was never my place. There is a firm hand, but also the ability to voice and show love and affection that I have always struggled with. And it changes the outcome. And she is alive. And all is well.
In my mind.
Often, I find myself back in anger while I reflect on all the ways in which I feel I fucked up. I shoulder the burden of it all as a reflection of me and what a piece of shit I am, instead of remembering there was history before I ever arrived; and understanding above all else that there was a wannabe-independent teenager, who thought they were immortal and had life figured out.
And then back again to depression, when I realize that I just simply loved someone and was not sure what I was doing. Depression when I realize that safety and happiness were not able to coexist for some reason, that we were asking for the impossible. Depression as I reflect on something I view as a failure - because when we finally gave in and let there be happiness, our intuition that it being the cost of safety, was recognized.
I admit that the depression phases are farther between than they used to be, but they exist nonetheless.
I have no advice for anyone going through this. I stopped drinking alcohol to remove fuel from flames out of self-preservation and an innate will to live. But the loss of the vice is just as difficult as living with it sometimes. People don't really discuss how difficult the process of "working on yourself" is. And removing your vice while working through the shit that haunts you, accumulated over years and years - it's tough. No other way around it.
Then there is the ocassional sick feeling of missing the darkness - or maybe that is just the Scorpio in me. Remembering the thrill of relishing in your own misery. It feels good to slip back there. Alone, Limp Bizkit too loud for your eardrums, a drink, then two... three... six... spiraling out in your own head. Thriving in the darkness while simultaneously blocking it all out so it can't come in.
Until is does come back in. Because it always fucking does.
In reality, feeding the darkness is so much easier short-term, and so, so much worse long-term. Less the music.
I guess there in lies the advice: Holding on to the long-term picture - it's the only way to avoid the backslide. And yet... the mentality of imagining long-term when you are processing grief, of all things... the friendly reminder that your life is short. What a cruel and fucked up world.
Nothing worth having was ever easily achieved.
There is also so, so much light. This is a true show of how my mind shifted in real time - as I got that shit down on paper and out of my system above. This is a true example of why my ~silly little blog~ exists for me. This is the part where the playlist shifted from Nine Inch Nails to something more like Nirvana. Not quite out of the weeds, but on my way.
When I reflect now on what the light looks like I see things like:
My friends and their children
My parents and family
Among many, many other things.
It is not a coincidence that when you emerge from darkness, the first things you appreciate are never related to your surroundings. The first appreciation is always connection. Because isolation from others... we were not meant to be isolated. Isolation - not having connection - is the root cause of why we reach for those vices. Either you truly have no safe connection to someone you trust, or you have that lingering feeling of being surrounded by people, but every one of them misunderstands you. Imagine that feeling you get when you are traveling alone, surrounded by thousands of people throughout the day at airports... People and families walking by in every direction as you have your headphones in and a book in your hand. You know no one and no one knows you. You talk to no one (except your bartender, of course), and you isolate yourself in a quiet corner of the airport to find some peace.
When I see people who struggle with addiction of any kind, I know there is a story there. And if I had to take one guess, it all started with the lack of a healthy, safe connection to someone else. This is why people all over the world reiterate to be kind to others. It just fucking matters.
So if you find yourself amidst that non-linear grief process, or that non-linear change process, as you try to better yourself and move forward, keep your eyes physically looking straight ahead. Head physically up, and not down. Ask yourself what you want your life to look like 3 months from now? 5 years from now? Is the choice you make today supporting that? Will you be hard on yourself when you revisit past stages of grief and change? Or can you accept that sometimes revisiting stages is necessary to someday reach the top of the staircase?
Keep going. You got this (my thoughts to myself, but also to you). You got this.