Usually I am not the kind of person who lives for the weekend. I tend to enjoy throwing myself into my work or school or whatever endeavor I find myself immersed in, so rarely do I find myself counting the minutes until 5:00pm on Friday. This has shifted somewhat since my mom died, and I find myself like so many other people in the world looking desperately forward to the end of the week, biding my time until I am off work and no longer have to be “on”. This longing for the weekend has little to do with an exciting social calender, replete with totally awesome events. It has everything to do with craving time to hibernate in my apartment with the dog, hoping no one pops in on us.
Grief is like depression in a lot of ways, which gives me an edge in dealing with it because I have spent most of my life, including the entirety of my adult existence, in a perpetual skirmish with depression. For many years, it was utterly crippling and I had no idea how to cope with it. In the summer of 2007 when I tried psychotropic drugs for the first time, I was like, holy shit… people feel like this? Like, every day? Throughout the whole day? For entire strings of days? As the chemicals in my brain leveled out and made it so that the notion of brushing my teeth and washing my face wasn’t totally incapacitating, I began to develop coping skills. In many cases, these skills involved pushing through feelings and taking on tasks and situations regardless of the vitriolic emotional reaction at play inside me. Before developing these skills, it was not uncommon for me to leave a half-filled cart of groceries in the middle of the store when I just suddenly couldn’t be there anymore. It was also not uncommon for this sort of behavior to be followed by me in my car in a remote parking lot somewhere, sobbing alone into a lap full of Taco Bell.
Although the grocery store has always been a sort of Achilles Heel for me, developing coping mechanisms has made a tremendous difference in my ability to just suck it up and buy the freaking groceries already. I have not simply walked out on my cart for probably five years, which I count as a victory. The byproduct of this is that I tend to go into a comatose state at the store, during which time I just put all kinds of random crap into my cart in an effort to get the hell out of there. This actually results in me being there longer because I end up with a cart pregnant with SO.MUCH.FOOD. that it takes me forEVER to check out. And, sadly, much of the food will end up getting tossed into the dumpster in a couple of weeks when it inevitably goes bad. This is something I’m working on, have been working on, something about which I have to constantly remind myself to be conscious. For depressives, and to a large extent for introverts, and definitely for the grieving, consciousness is ever in flux.
One of the main tenets of my existence is that I am cognizant of my emotional state most of the time, and have learned to usually adhere to whatever my miswired brain tells me is appropriate. I know when it is possible for me to push through uncomfortable situations, and I know when that pushing through is going to culminate in my face melting off, and the subsequent murder of a handful of strangers. It has cost me some “friendships”, but I have come to a point where I am finally able to acknowledge when I need to withdraw, and I do so mostly without shame. The past several weeks I have forced myself to stay afloat in the wake of my mother’s death, have tried to be as social as I can, have at least spent time with my sisters. Grief exacerbates the need to withdraw, makes every single simple task so draining that you need to lie down almost immediately after just a few short minutes of being a functional human being.
This weekend there is a huge festival in town, a sweet-corn-and-music event that will happen just a few blocks from where I live. Part of me wants so badly to go, to enjoy it, to eat junk food and drink beer until I am sick, and drink in live music. But for the introverted, for depressives, for the bereaved,social engagements are not something to be enjoyed so much as they are something to be endured. We do fun life stuff not to actually do it, but so that we have done it. We wear the accomplishment of Having Done Something like a medal. More like a scar, really. I washed my hair and shaved my legs, WHAT’S UP NOW! We brave the inconvenience of wearing pants, we weather the misery of social interaction and small talk, we withstand the displeasure of spending several sustained hours doing some fun thing so that we can say, That fun thing? Yeah, I totally did that! It was AWESOME! Because saying that, reflecting on all of the parts of the event that are supposed to be superdupercool, is so much more acceptable than saying, I managed to avoid the sun almost entirely this weekend!