Monday, May 13, 2013

One Thought at a Time

my momma and me

My brain works so hard. Every  minute of every day, even when I'm sleeping, it's chugging away. Its main responsibility is to keep me safe. It does this by worrying. Some of the worrying is useful. It can result in my actual physical safety and it can result in problem-solving.

Some (and I'd venture to say most) of it is useless worrying. Seems like my brain has a tough time distinguishing the difference.

And it seems like it's always had this problem.  I've been realizing that the trauma I've experienced even before Dave died has wired my brain for this. When you're a little girl and your world is turned upside down when your momma is taken by cancer and your dad is taken by alcoholism, you learn to be vigilant. Your mind becomes ever-alert for more danger. You don't necessarily learn to relax and let others worry about you when you're still small.

And this is my brain. This was my brain before Dave died. That brain warned me that every fever Dave spiked and ever pain he had was the end to that love too. I was just starting to process this in therapy when he actually did die.

Can you imagine a better way to program my brain that the worrying was legit?

It didn't prepare me for widowhood. It didn't make it less shocking that he was Dave one minute and then a body the next. But try explaining that to my protective worrying subconscious mind.

The useless worrying doesn't help me, but knowing that is never enough to make it stop.
For those who've never been through complicated grief or trauma or who don't suffer from PTSD, I bet this is a really hard fact to grasp.

Letting go of it all will not only mean a reprogramming of a brain that has been programmed this way for 30+ years, but will also mean letting go of what my subconscious perceives as protective.

Why would it want to let go of that easily? It won't. It's not going out without a fight.

I suppose the vigilance of my efforts to overcome this have to be at least equal to the vigilance of my worrying mind. 

If my mind suggests something to worry about every few minutes than I've gotta counteract that with some sort of new neural pathway thought every few minutes too.

I'm tired just thinking about that, much less carrying it out.

Some days, 2 years out, are still challenging enough without adding the element of this reprogramming project.

But each day I get to try again. Each day is another chance. And the scientist in me likes the challenge. It's my own little research project. Can a brain this intensely programmed be rewired? Can PTSD, if that's what I have, be conquered in some way? In what ways can I heal my mind? I like the task of gathering information and trying out different strategies, noting the results each time.

I'm pissed though. I'm really pissed off that I didn't get to feel protected and safe as a kid. I'm unspeakably sad that I don't get to celebrate mother's day with my mom. And of course, I'm gutted by the fact that my husband is no longer here.

And all those facts are still just facts. I was dealt this hand for reasons unknown and it's my job to make my dad's, my momma's and Dave's existence worth it by making mine worth it. One day, one hour, one minute at a time. One thought at a time.


  1. yes. yes. I know that I wasn't worried at all, had no -inkling- of danger at all the day matt died. So now I find myself (sometimes) scoffing at those brain loops - yeah? I think you are opposite day. Every time there was no danger, you worried, and the one time there was - not even a blip.

    And like you, I had just recently let go of my fear/belief/feeling that the one I love was going to die suddenly. And then - he did.

    Sending you some love from one logical-illogical brain to another.

  2. Nicely said, Cassie. I hate that my worry robs me of beautiful days and restful nights. Now that my husband is no longer here to curtly say, "Get a grip, Janice" I go way overboard.
    I guess it is up to us "worriers" to quit letting worry take away the small moments of peace we have in our lives.

  3. Going back for good and not so good things is okay, as long as we understand of not going back to far that we can't come back to our reality of widowhood. I can't agree with you more of the struggles we face each and every day. Should be an answer for every question we have, it's' out in space somewhere that we keep searching for. My life now is more of existence than being happy of doing things. I keep pushing forward each day and hope it will get better.
    Peace be with you.

  4. I too merely exist, as I have no family or friends in the small town in which I live, nor are there any activities here. I spend everyday worrying myself sick about everything. My husband died 16 months ago. I should sell my large, high-maintenance house and move, but I don't know where I would move or even how. This morning I dropped my car at a repair shop and walked two miles home. As I walk, I wonder if I'll pay much more for the repair than my husband would have. How long will the car last I worry. I keep pushing through one day at a time without making progress. It's hard to believe anything will ever get better.
    Wishing peace and perseverence to all.

  5. I worry too, the list is long, one thing after the other. I try to tell myself "DON'T" ...worrying about something that might happen but then doesn't is a waste of time, it usually, but not always, does not turn out like you think it will. So why worry about something that you have no control over, you've just wasted time over something that may never happen. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

    Cassie, I like your job description: "to make my dad's, my momma's and Dave's existence worth it by making mine worth it." The power of that thought will keep you going, and I have hope that you will succeed.

  6. To those of you feeling your are just existing, from further down Grief Road, I want to share that indeed there IS life beyond WILL come. I know how hard it is. Have faith. Be gentle and loving with yourself and when you find those little moments (which at first are admittedly rare) where there's a bit of spare energy in your heart for it, make little changes in your perspective...try thinking something new and slightly different from your usual...whatever that broken record for you is in your sadness and your fears, just shift it slightly for just a minute. Sometimes that didn't seem to do much for me, but SOMETIMES the smallest shifts in perspective brought me tremendous healing and comfort. I wish this for you all too.