People have told me I'm the strongest person they know. I find that hard to believe as folks on this planet have gone through larger life experiences than me. But it's true that I have not allowed my traumas of the past three years to knock me flat, but knock me down they did. What's important is I got back up. Sometimes I may have only gotten as far as my knees in getting back up, but get up I did.
What motivates me to get back up? Mostly my son and his need for a mother in a somewhat emotionally and mentally healthy condition. A lot of times I faked that condition, and then collapsed in utter exhaustion from the effort. I came to realize I could recover from all that faking, so I did a lot of it....in front of friends, at work, hell, just buying groceries at times.
The fragility of my mental and emotional state after my younger son died was such that an innocent, obscure kind word from the grocery clerk would bring tears to my eyes. I would take a deep breath and think to myself "do not cry in this HEB, do not cry in this HEB, keep it together, for God's sake." And then I would cry at home alone.
When I cry, it's an ugly cry, but I let myself do it. Then I have a habit of gritting my teeth and tossing my head to release that sadness completely. Every time I cry, that emotional expense is a building block of my strength. That piece of sadness and grief is gone, so what takes its place? Resilience.
I may have mentioned previously that I went through a period where I would not turn on the lights, or would keep them very low in the mornings before work. I would get up from bed and go sit in the bathroom in the darkness while the shower water heated up. I knew this was a dark habit, not sustainable, but I couldn't help it. These days were some of the worst because carrying on with ordinary life when one has lost a child seems like an affront to their memory.
But then I read that the need for darkness was part of depression, and that light actually signaled more happy receptors in our brains. So I started to snap on those lights, forcing myself into the brightness. And it did work. But also, I was ready for it to work. I had needed to indulge in that darkness for a while, to literally sit with it, study it, and then expel it.
I'm not on my knees anymore, thankfully. Through the grace of my enormously strong network of friends, I am making it through the residue of these traumas. I would not be here without them, and would probably still be flat on my back. Never underestimate the power of human kindness and magnanimity. That's what's made me strong, and kept me strong.