Monday, November 22, 2010

The Effect of PDD, NOS on Pussycats

PDD, NOS: Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified

I.e. my brother: the last surviving member of my immediate family. What it means as a diagnosis: as we always knew, he is undefinable, but he shows symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. What it means to me: the last surviving member of my immediate family speaks a different emotional language from me.

One of the most painful things about my current lot in life is that the only family I have left neither understands nor shares in my process of grief. My surviving brother concluded his grieving process within the time span of a couple of weeks. All three of my loved ones who died understood different aspects of me - the weaker, emotional aspects - and appreciated them, and even loved me for them. It's not that my surviving brother doesn't "get" me (as it often is with family), but rather he does not comprehend how grief and sadness can be pervasive and intrusive, as he possesses the uncanny (and enviable) ability to 'switch off' such irrational emotions. He doesn't understand what it's like to fall victim to loneliness, or the feeling of abandonment or rejection. He stares blankly at me when I cry - sympathetic, perhaps, but to me it appears almost angry, as though I've inconvenienced him by forcing him to bow to the social convention of having to try to comfort me. (Incidentally, he has told me he uses this blog as a tool to try and find some logical, underlying process to my emotions.)

I write poetry, every day of my life. Most of it is implicit, unconventional, and utilizes techniques that I know he would never appreciate - like the new sentence. Every poem I write is a little piece of my soul that I release from my protective body out into the world. I never show him my poetry, because I know that his inability to appreciate it (should he not approve of my choice of technique) would feel to me a manifestation of how alien I am to him.

Today I wrote a poem about pussycats. It rhymed, as my poetry rarely does, and it followed a traditional iambic structure. I wrote it as something cute, perhaps for kids - something explicit; more prosaic than my typical style. The poem was, at its core, an expression of the hope that I have struggled so long to find, and that I now embrace with all the energy I have within me. If anything, I thought, this is the piece of my soul he might be able to understand; the piece of my soul with which he may be able to connect. I took a risk, and I sent it to him. He said to me:

I don't really like it. I don't like the story, and I find the wording awkward to read.

I shouldn't have expected anything more from him, but I did. Even if he had hated it, I was still expecting something - I'm not really sure - perhaps like "aw, how cute, you wrote a rhyming poem about pussycats," or "well, it's no Emerson or Shakespeare, but that's cute, Tee." Such a phrase (while certainly not a rave review) would at least express a recognition and acknowledgement of the significance that I'm writing about pussycats instead of about death - as I have been doing for a very long time.

I instantly burst into tears. Not because he didn't like my poem (I write poetry for myself, and appreciate that many or maybe most will dislike it). I started crying because he, unknowingly, spat into my face a reminder that every family member who could understand the language of my soul has been taken from me.

So when people say to me: "thank God you still have your brother" -- yes! Thank God I still have my brother! But no -- even with my dear big brother here to love and protect me (as he's been socialised to do), I don't feel any less an orphan.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What ifs II

What if, somewhere, they're still alive? (I'm not the only one.):

After my mom killed herself, I would imagine it was only a robot version of herself that died, and that the real version would walk in the door any day now...(I was 7)

I started having dreams that she staged the whole thing and wasn't actually dead. And I still hold out a secret hope that one day she will come out of hiding. I'm 25.

from PostSecret

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pursuing Drama

I'm afraid that something may be the case for me, and for a long time I've been afraid to confront it or admit it to myself:

I have spent a good year or so in constant, powerful emotional turmoil. As glad as I am to have climbed out of that abyss, I think I had habituated to it - and, in contrast, a life of normalcy seems extraordinarily dull. What I've noticed in this subsequent year is that I've changed my behaviour to pursue stronger emotions. I take spontaneous trips, leave projects until the last minute, engage in confrontation where I would typically mediate, place myself in situations where I will interact with people I'd rather that I can feel the excitement, the stress, the thrill, the terror, the heartbreak, the anger, the exhilaration. And whatever it is, even in my moments of absolute misery, I come out the other end thinking is that it? Have my emotions stabilized already? Am I to go back to being 'normal'?

More than anything, I do not want to say I miss what I felt last year. And I certainly do not want to go back there. But, as nervous as I am to admit it, there really was something thrilling about living a life that was out of the ordinary. My days were filled with police, lawyers, social workers, journalists and photographers, funeral directors. They were filled with tears, screams, fights, collapses, mistakes. And more than anything, they were filled with decisions I would never have otherwise had the cajones to make. I was in shock, and in misery, but somehow it made me feel surprisingly alive.

I ache to feel quite so alive again. Does that make me an addict? Is it dysfunctional? Does getting the most out of life mean exploring the extents of human experience and emotion, or am I playing with fire by not appreciating calm waters?

Most importantly: am I ultimately sabotaging myself?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What ifs

A friend of mine lost his dad when he was around 14. His way of dealing with it was to pretend that it had never happened. He locked the event away in a mental box and continued to live his life as though the rug had never been pulled out from under his feet. He was the friend I called to come be with me the day I lost my family, after the homicide detectives had left. One of the very first things he said to me was "face this. Do not lock it away like I did, that is the stupidest thing you can do." I had never had any intentions of doing anything other than facing it, but I held his advice close to heart.

Meeting suicide survivors, one of the things I often hear is 'you can't think like that.' That is - life goes on, and you can't dwell on the experience, and you especially can't dwell on not knowing. I've tried my very best not to dwell. I obtained all of the information I could - police reports, autopsy photos, my dad's web search history - and then focused my efforts on accepting the event as the event and as something I will never understand.

But every once in a while, the 'what ifs' rise up. What if it wasn't really a murder-suicide, but there was foul play? What if my father's suicide was an accident, and he meant to stay living? What if I hadn't gone away to university? What if I had taken her seriously and called the police when my mother joked about having a mass suicide? What if I hadn't told my father, the week before, about how hard it was visiting home?

What if this is all a dream?

It seems like it would be so much easier believing that something other than what the evidence points to happened, or that the event never happened at all. And it seems like it would be so much more fulfilling if I could finally find answers to the questions that no one on this earth can answer.

The what ifs are so tantalizing - they offer the promise of a solution that does not exist. And, like Tantalus in his hell, they offer nothing but an unquenchable thirst. But sometimes I just get so, so thirsty on my own that, as much as I know the pool will recede when I do, I have to bend down to try and take a sip.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A poem from Mar 11, 2010

Love, Mommy.

For months after I died,
You wrote to me. As often
As I used to call you,
To keep me updated, to keep
Our bond.

You would seal each letter
Carefully (like I taught you)
Into a sketchbook that you bought
Just for me,
And write the date in the bottom right corner.

You haven’t written to me in months, sweetheart.
You’re afraid to. I know you need to,
I know you need to talk to me
To imagine my face as I read your words
But your courage and resilience have turned to fear.

I know you changed your desktop background
To the last picture we took together
But you keep windows open
So you never have to look at it.

You blew up an old picture of J*** and I
And postered it onto your living room wall
But I see you when you look at it
You look at your father,
And not me.

I’m gone, sweetie.
I know you don’t want it to be true,
But it is.

But you need to remember something:
You may not feel me anymore
My arms
My voice
My hands
My hugs
But that does not mean I am not with you.

I made a promise to you:
I will be there for
you at every turn in your
life – good, bad and everything
in between. Don’t be afraid.
I will be there for you
through all of this.

Do not think that
Because my breath was stolen from me
Because my body failed me
Because my heart is unbeating ash
That I lied to you.

I will be there for you
through all of this.

I am here for you.
Through all of this.

I know it’s easy to say
Don’t be afraid,
So I will let you. You don’t
Need to look at my picture,
Sweet Tee.

And I can survive for as long as necessary,
Not receiving another letter from you.
Take your time. I don’t resent it,
I don’t blame you,
And I have all the patience you need from me.

Just please remember:
I am there for you
through all of this.

You have your brother, and your Auntie
To give you hugs, to give you voice
And to hold your hand. But you are
My Daughter.
I am there for you.

Death does not stop a mother’s love.
You know how stubborn I am.
And you know how much
Your Daddy and I
Will always fight for you.

I love you, Tee.
(and I love you too)
I am here for you. Through all of this.
So, please:
Don’t be afraid.

A poem from Jan 12, 2010

I wish I could have told you

I wish I could have told you:
You were the greatest father
The best daddy
The most wonderful papa

And it didn’t matter
How much money you made
How many orders you got
How often you could strike up the will to make calls

It didn’t matter
What mommy thought of you
What D***** thought you felt
Whether or not you had the snow shoveled before we woke up

I never cared if you messed up the pancake recipe
Only that you made them
And let me put on as much syrup as I wanted
(You always did)

I never cared if you bought the wrong brand of whatever
Only that you’d go out and buy it for me
Just ‘cause I asked
(You always did)

I never cared if you could get your book published
Only that you didn’t give up writing
And kept telling us stories
(You always did)

I never cared if you couldn’t take us all on a trip
Only that you wanted to
And that you’d spend time with us even just at home
(You always did)

I never cared if you couldn’t teach me math the way I needed to learn it
Only that you tried
And that you cherished the chance to try
(You always did)

I never cared if you could give me a ride or not
Only that you had my back
And would help me in a pinch
(You always did)

I never cared if we had the biggest house on the street
Or the most elegant one in the best neighbourhood
Or if we could pay our mortgage
I only cared that you were there living with us.

I wish I could have told you:
You did everything right.
Everyone was jealous that I had you as a dad.
If I were them: I would’ve been too.

I love you,
And I know you love me.
I just wish I’d had the chance
To tell you all of these things.