We had another rough night last night. Maddie woke up screaming at 11:30 p.m., which immediately set off Riley, and nothing I could do would calm them down. This time, Maddie was awake and wanting to be comforted, but finding fault with everything I did to try. "No singing! No blankie! No duckie! I wanna get down! I wanna get up! I wanna agua!" Riley was likewise inconsolable. I sang, I hugged, I yelled, I cried with them, I left the room, I came back (a few times), and eventually we were all just good and wore out and they went back to sleep.
I felt absolutely miserable. I was angry with myself for yelling, for not being a better parent, for being unable to comfort my own kids, for not eating healthy food, for not exercising, and for an endless list of other items, big and small. I was angry with the twins for all these middle-of-the-night shennanigans, even though I know to be angry with them is unfair. I was angry with the universe for not cutting me some slack. I was angry with John for dying and leaving me all alone.
I called my mom and cried for a long time. And I realized something, something really, really obvious.
I'm angry all the time. Every moment of every day. I feel like punching someone in the face 24/7.
This is not normal.
My whole life, I have practiced being fine. Even when I don't feel fine, I've pretended to be fine because I have been taught that that's what you do. You go on. You persevere. You help yourself. You make lemonade. And if you pretend for long enough, the pretend will become reality. And really, until John's cancer diagnosis, my life was fine. It was more than fine. It was full, happy, and rewarding. It had ups and downs, but most days I felt truly happy.
It's becoming increasingly evident to me that pretending I feel happy is not a legitimate coping strategy for dealing with the death of my young spouse and subsequent sole responsibility of my two young children. I've been pretending for a long time now and I'm tired of it. In fact, all the pretending has worn me out at least as much as all of the actual grief and the responsibilities of parenting. It's exhausting. I even pretend I'm OK when I'm at therapy! How lame is that?
I will continue to get up and get to work and get my kids to daycare every day, and I will do those things as cheerfully as I can for Maddie and Riley. But at least when I'm at therapy and when I'm with family and friends who have the strength to take it, I need to talk about how fucking angry I am all the time. I need to work that out. I'm like a time bomb right now, and I'm getting closer and closer to going off in a spectacular, ugly, and dangerous explosion.
First stop: therapy tomorrow. Maybe it's time to try medication. It's certainly time to talk about that option. Maybe my therapist will have other ideas. And I need to come up with some ideas of my own. Maybe I need to find a way to take a week's vacation, just me, with nothing to do but sleep and read and relax. Maybe I need to think about selling my condo, which feels like an albatross around my neck. Maybe I need to quit my job, or at least explore other options.
Other than airing some really dirty laundry at therapy, I don't need to do any of these things right away. But it's amazing how just talking to my mom last night, in a snotty, tear-infused delirium, and telling her how awful I feel, has already started to make me feel better. The kids were adorable this morning, so sweet and bright and loving. We ate cereal and read books and even weathered flu shots with aplomb. We can do this, we just need to do it differently. I need to do it differently. I need to do it more honestly, and with more help.
Even though I've spent my morning leaking tears and blotting my eyes, I feel like this is the start of something big.