December has been an intense month for me.
It marks the sixth year since my dad died of brain cancer.
So strange how time passes, but in an instant can fold in on itself. I’ve felt so far from that time while also unbearably near. Suffering from physical and emotional pain so all encompassing I felt like I’d time travelled.
Flashbacks, heartaches, headaches.
Days where I couldn’t stop crying for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Days where I was fine one minute and hyperventilating the next.
I started to call it ‘death aches’.
Like my insides could rip through me at any time. Like not being able to look in the mirror because my face reminds me of his. Like I didn’t have the ability to hold myself in this present world. Like nothing, my sanity included, was safe.
December has been kind of scary for me in that way.
Feeling like I’m “closer to the crazy” (than usual).
I’ve forgotten if last year was like this.
I was completely caught off guard by the effect the anniversary would have on me.
It’s like I’d somehow forgotten how much grief can hurt.
Karen (my art therapist, and friend) says that my body remembers. That we live in cycles, that the time lapsing-seasonal-triggers make a lot of sense.
After working with her this fall, I feel like I may be more self aware. I’m closer to raw, but I’m also closer to strength. I am quicker to identify the things I’m feeling, more trusting in asking for help and being honest with myself. The pain may be just as awful as it was then, but I am quicker to bounce back, I’m learning what helps and what doesn’t.
After having so many in my life and especially this month, I’ve sort of developed a system to battle breakdowns:
1. Call a friend.
– In my experience, I will often spiral quickly into completely irrational thoughts if I’m alone for too long in breakdown world. The sooner I surrender my despair to someone who can reassure me that I’ll be okay, the sooner I can feel like myself again.
Also, sometimes it’s enough just to have a conversation about every day mundane things, or say nothing and just be held by someone.
Note. My friends are incredibly supportive and open. (thank you thank you thank you!)
2. Write about it.
-When I can see my thoughts and emotions on the page, outside of my mind, cut and paste-able, re-visit-able and safe, than I can begin to let them go. I can accept what they were and my helplessness begins to disperse. When I’m creating from my emotions and experiences than I can more easily accept their purpose.
Note. I don’t usually read back (usually at least) until I’m in a new head space.
3. Look/read through old journal/sketchbooks from a similar crisis or time of year.
-Shortly after my dads death, when I was deepest in my depression, I used the image of the person I wanted to be to guide me (and I still do this). I knew what direction I wanted to go in, but didn’t know how to get there. So when in doubt, I would ask myself what I thought she would do, sort of like my own made-up-fairy-godmother. Now, looking back on the self that had the strength to live through those things, is incredibly comforting.
I feel like my past and future selves are considerably wiser than my present moment-living-experiencing self, if that makes sense.
Here are some of my favorite pages (of no specific theme) found while looking through old journals.