Grief

On August 21, 2016, my paternal Nonno passed away at 86 years old. His health had been declining for several years and he had had many health scares in that time. On August 1st he had been placed on hospice and we were told that he might pass in a few months or as soon as a few days. In one of my classes that I had just completed the previous quarter, Adulthood and Aging, my professor told us that most people are on hospice for less than two months. The last time I saw him was on August 14th, and I could tell that despite being surrounded by his entire family, he was not present mentally. By August 19th, we were told that he was declining faster than expected and he might live one more week. My dad got a call from my Zia very early in the morning on August 21st that my grandfather was extremely irritable and that she was going to bring him to the hospital. My dad left immediately to go be with his dad. He passed that morning surrounded by his wife and kids. We had been running errands and immediately went to go spend time with our Nonna. I was instructed to try not to show how upset I was because everyone was afraid that my crying would make Nonna more upset. She seemed a little sad, but otherwise fine. She told me not to be sad because he wasn’t hurting anymore, but I felt as if someone had ripped a hole in my heart and couldn’t help crying.

Nonno was the first person in my immediate family that I had lost. And while I knew that he wasn’t in pain anymore, losing him was very hard on me. I had been having anxiety attacks for weeks before he passed because even though I have always known it was going to happen, I had never lost anybody that was such a huge part of my life growing up. Not only was finding out that he had passed hard for me, but everything became much more real during the interment. We were all gathered there for the interment; his wife, both his children and their spouses, his three grandsons and their wives, his two granddaughters, and three of his five great grandchildren. We had all seen him the week before on the 14th, but little did we know then that we would be saying goodbye to him on the 25th.

It took me almost six months before the overwhelming feeling of loss had begun to subside. Christmas had been hard on all of us, but me, my mom, and my sister had some special gifts in mind. After Nonno had passed, we had taken three shirts from his closet and his engraved set of poker chips. He had always worn plaid button ups and we turned these shirts into remembrance pillows. I have one, my sister has one, and my Nonna has one that she has since placed on his side of the bed. With the poker chips, we created a keychain for every single person in the family. Each generation got a different color and my grandmother got one with all three colors. The person who appreciated the keychain most was my three year old cousin. We have been told that he carries that poker chip around with him all the time and whenever he goes to my Nonna’s house (his great grandparents) he still goes around searching for our Nonno. He understands that Nonno went to heaven, but he doesn’t yet realize that Nonno is not coming back. School helped me from being upset during the day and gave me something to think about besides how much I missed my Nonno, but at night the raw feelings made their way to the surface. Eventually, I found myself thinking about him without breaking into tears, but it is still hard sometimes. I still miss him.

As my grief was starting to decline, my maternal Nonno’s health started to decline as did the health of my paternal Nonna. (Sorry if things start to get confusing. I am Italian on both sides of my family, so growing up I have two Nonnos and two Nonnas.) They both went to the hospital in November, and we were worried about both of them. Our weekends consisted of traveling two hours to see my maternal Nonno and Nonna and then on the drive home stopping to visit my paternal Nonna. I was worried that one of them would pass on November 21st, the day that marked three months since my paternal Nonno had passed. By November 21st, both my nonni had their health improve. As the new year started my paternal Nonna was seeing her health remain consistent, while my maternal Nonno began to decline more rapidly.

It had started with weakness in his legs and a loss of appetite and in February, my maternal Nonno had begun to fall more frequently and his kidneys were starting to shut down. If he did dialysis, his kidneys might get better, but it would make his heart worse. We were hoping that he would make it to the end of March, until spring break, but he was declining rapidly and was put on hospice before Valentine’s day. As February 21st came closer, I had a feeling that my Nonno would pass on that Monday (February 21st was a Tuesday, I had figured it out wrong, but I had a feeling my maternal Nonno would pass exactly six months after my paternal Nonno did). Almost every week in January and February, my parents went to go see him and me and my sister tagged along if we didn’t have too much homework. We saw him for the last time on February 19th, and while we were in the car my Zia called to tell us he hit his head early in the morning. We saw him and helped him bandage his head until someone from hospice came to check on him and talk to us. She was saying that he might have internal bleeding from hitting his head and that he might pass in a few days if there was indeed internal bleeding. I had to go take a walk to the park nearby because hearing the hospice worker talk about the possible timeline of the rest of his life was reopening the hole in my heart that had almost healed.

On February 20th, 2017 at just past 1 pm, we got a call from my cousin that my maternal Nonno had passed. He was 89 and 3/4 years old. I couldn’t believe it for we had just seen him the day before, just about 24 hours had passed since we had left. We were torn between driving going to be with my maternal Nonna and staying home. I didn’t want to go, but my family knew that they also couldn’t leave me home. Both me and my sister were taking his passing very hard. I went for my Nonna and my mom. My Nonna was angry that he didn’t say goodbye, while the rest of us were still in a bit of shock. On February 24th, we held the funeral. We had a private interment and again I found that the hardest part. We were all their, our tiny family; his wife, his two daughters and their husbands, and his four grandchildren. We used the flowers from the arrangements we had ordered to place at his plaque, my great grandparents plaque, and the plaque of my cousins’ other Nonna.

I still miss my Nonno greatly. School was a distraction, but I feel that it prevented me from grieving early on. It wasn’t until summer started that I finally felt allowed to properly grieve him. It was hard on his birthday in May because I kept thinking how he would have been 90 years old and how even though he had been saying he was 90 practically since he had turned 89, he would have been able to say it and we wouldn’t have been able to correct him. I find that I still think about him a lot and when we go to visit my maternal Nonna every few weeks I still expect to see him there about half the time.

Though we have not created any remembrance things for my maternal Nonno, we picked out some of his shirts to make pillows.

This past year my family lost two great men. My Nonnas are learning to live independently after being married for 62 and 54 years (paternal Nonna and maternal Nonna respectively). I still find it hard to think about them without crying, and visiting my Nonnas makes it harder. Whenever I visit either of them, it hurts all over again. They still both live in their homes, and it is so weird to be at their houses. It makes my heart ache all over again and sometimes I dread visiting. I know that my Nonnas like to see me and my sister. I always go even though it is hard for me because they lost someone who was much more important. Between visits it is a little easier for me, but when I am at their homes there is so much to remind me of my Nonnos. The photos are the hardest for me to look at because while they captured good memories, it just acts as another reminder that they are gone now. I can usually hold myself together while I am there, but once we are in the car I find it becomes harder to keep the tears at bay and I tend to be more moody/irritable as well. I still try to hide it because I don’t want my anyone to see how upset I still am about their passings. I feel that my maternal Nonno’s passing was harder because it was more unexpected.

I feel that the interments were almost as difficult as hearing about their passings because until then, I do not remember seeing my Nonnas cry. Having the whole family there made it a little better. After both interments, we went to have dinner before we left. After my paternal Nonno’s funeral, we went to a restaurant and then to see my maternal nonni until traffic let up. After my maternal Nonno’s funeral, the whole family went to Nonna’s house and ate dinner and have some drinks and just spend time with each other  and tell stories about our Nonno until we had to go home. I feel that this was the right way to spend the night, remembering my maternal Nonno and being with my Nonna when she needed us.

When it was time to go home I felt a sense of sadness, not because I was upset about their passings, but because I felt like we were leaving them behind. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not have them around.

There are somethings that I find provide me with some relief from the sadness.

  • Both my Nonnos got to see all their grandchildren graduate high school.
  • Both my Nonnos got to see all their grandchildren become adults. (My sister was the youngest of all the grandchildren and had just turned 18.)
  • Both my Nonnas have family nearby to help them.
  • I have so many good memories to remember them by.
  • They are watching over us now. (We have even more guardian angels!)

Hard Days

Those days where you wake up and just feel off.

Today it felt as if there was something missing inside me, maybe the happy part, maybe I used it all up when my sister’s friends were over and I had to pretend that I enjoyed being stuck hosting a large group of people. The sadness usually presents in this way or as a numb sort of feeling. Eat breakfast, but not really enjoy it. Browse social media, but nothing seems to hold any meaning.

Distraction. Find something to do to keep my mind off the strange off feeling. Book. I’m about a third of the way through the book. Focus on the characters, the adventures, plot twists that are predictable and those that surprise me.

Lunch. Again, not very satisfying, but I enjoy it enough.

Back to reading. Dedicated to this strange book now. Want to see how it ends.

Finish the book. It ended good. It was worth reading even though it was kinda long.

Go outside with my sister and her puppy. Some of the other dog owners are there. The fresh air is good. Makes me feel content.

Come home, make dinner, eat.

Feel sad again, even as we run errands. Just feeling hopeless overall.

Get home and just feel sad. Wonder if my anxiety medication was actually helping and I didn’t realize. It seems that this is likely. Gonna try taking it for a little while.

Puppy comes to cuddle with me. Don’t feel alone right now.

Blog about it. Feel a little better.


I don’t know if you guys know how much sharing these things actually helps me. Today had been really hard, hence the several hours of reading. Like 6 hours of reading. I want everyone who reads to know that you are not alone, no matter how alone you feel.

An Inspiration?

I have been told by several members of my family and some of my friends that I have inspired them. Some have been inspired by how open I am about my mental illness. Some are inspired by how passionately I talk about my experiences with mental illness. Others have told me that I am an inspiration for them to work on getting off their medication as well.

I am grateful that I could be an inspiration for them, but I still have a long way to come myself. I am off medication, which is great, but that also means that I am trying to learn to deal with my emotions on my own for the first time since diagnosis.

It means I find myself crying easier, for both good and bad things. I find myself getting irritated easily, and I tend to get upset that I let it get to me so easily.

I also find that it is often easier for me to redirect myself when I start to feel depressed and I find myself feeling better faster. I blog or listen to music or read and if the weather is nice I can go outside and take a walk.

I have realized that I have a sense of humor that has been starting to show itself lately. I can also be incredibly sassy. 🙂

I am no longer constantly overwhelmed by my depression or anxiety. I am slowly getting better at managing it. I have had more days that are neutral or good. This means I am having fewer bad days, and for once, I am starting to feel like myself.

Normal used to be that I was tired, antisocial, and depressed. I am slowly making progress. I have more energy and feel that I am starting to be more social. I am learning more about myself, my brain, and how to deal with this new “normal”.

I owe a great thank you to everyone who has supported my journey thus far and to everyone who inspired me. You have helped me make big changes and I look forward to seeing who I will become.

 

Quiet Person Seeking Quiet

If I am doing something and there is noise around me, I cannot focus. I need a quiet area, or nearly quiet, to do schoolwork and to read. If I am studying on campus, I will put in earbuds and turn on instrumental music or a movie score to drown out any noise around me. This helps most of the time. It is harder for me to avoid sensory overload at home.

It seems my sister never uses earbuds or headphones, despite having several very nice pairs, and she loves to talk. Great for her, she has things to talk about. The thing is, she will tell me a bunch of stuff when I first get home, when I just want to relax for a bit before doing homework, and then she tells our mom all the same long-winded stories when she gets home. This means I hear about everything that happens in her life, in great detail, twice. The thing is, she always decides to tell our mom these things while I’m doing homework. I usually do homework in the living room so that I am not trapped in my room all the time. I hate being trapped in my room to do homework, especially considering that my room is too small for a real desk to work at so I end up working on my bed. My sister almost never does homework in her room, so I am constantly being distracted by her talking and her music, which I can hear perfectly clear through my own earbuds and music.

During the summer is no different. I have mentioned before that I love to read, but to read and actually understand the story, I need it to be fairly quiet. Interrupt me while I am reading and I will get a little angry, especially if it is my sister trying to read things she saw on Tumblr to me. I had a tumblr, but I hated the constant stream of politics and other things I find uninteresting, so I don’t go on it anymore. Anyways, I like it to be quiet and not a lot of activity. But because my sister likes to talk, and listen to music, I have to lock myself in my room a lot if I ever want to get through a book. The only time it is even possibly quiet enough to read in the common areas of the house during the summer is if she is also reading a book or watching anime. Then later, she won’t shut up about her book/anime.

I am a quiet person. I don’t talk much, but if I have even a little bit of interest in something, I might join the conversation. I don’t care about worrying what new terrible thing is being spread through the news, or what a book I probably will never read is about, or anime. I care about the books I read, my cat, my family. Get me talking about what new changes are being made at Disneyland, or the beach, or mental illness. Ask me about me and if I feel you are genuinely interested, I will tell you what is going on in my life.

I hate small talk or hearing about things I don’t care about, but you know what, I know that there has to be someone else in the world who cares about these things that you can probably talk to. Don’t call me ignorant because I decide to not worry about things that are out of my control. I have my priorities set up in a way I like: school, family, cat, books, getting ready to apply to grad school, long term life plans. That I care about right now, plus some other short term things I am waiting for like books to be released, vacation, and movies.

 

Similar, Yet Different

I have told you guys how I have a lot of the same mental illnesses as my dad. Well, there is one thing that makes us extremely different.

He is more extroverted, loves talking to strangers and meeting new people, but he hates practically every member of our family. On both sides.

I am very much introverted. I can be outgoing, but I find it hard.I would rather stay home and read than socialize most days and I have only a few friends that I stay close with.Despite being social not being something I love, if it is for my family, I will go. I want to remain close to our family as much as possible. Even though I don’t agree with all the decisions they make, I love them with all my heart.

I try my best to make it to every event we are invited to, from birthday parties for my youngest cousins to summer visits, but it is hard with school during the year. And even if I wanted to go see them during the summer, my dad wouldn’t drive me because then he would be stuck there and my mom works a full time job.

I guess I take after my mom more in this regard because though she has lost contact with her cousins, she tries to make sure me and my sister still get to spend time with ours. I am grateful for my cousins who still invite us over for their kids birthdays and that everyone still makes an effort to have Christmas together. My sad hates these family events, but they are some of my favorite times of the year.

I don’t know when my dad went from loving our family to avoiding it like the plague, but I hope that I never take after him in that regard. I hope that I get to stay close to my family.

Writing Prompt Fun #1

I’m bored today, so I decided to look at story prompts on Pinterest, pick one and go from there. I also hold the right to change the prompt if changing it causes me inspiration.

Today’s prompt: “What are you so afraid of?”      “You.”


“What are you so afraid of?”, he said as he stared into my eyes with his own storm grey ones.

“Me”, I whisper as I drag my eyes down from his gaze and hide my face in my legs. I’m still sitting on the floor in the corner of the room with my legs pulled to my chest. It seems he always knows when something is going on. How does he always seem to know?

“Why are you afraid of yourself? You know you can tell me anything, right?”

I can hear it in his voice that he is being completely honest and try to make myself even smaller than I feel. Will he be mad that I’ve kept all of this a secret for so long?

I sigh. There is no point just sitting here in silence because I know for a fact that he won’t leave until he knows I am okay or at least safe. But how can he protect me from myself?

“I haven’t completely honest with you.” I don’t even know why you are still my friend. All the others have left. “I get these terrible thoughts that tell me to hurt myself, and lately they have been getting stronger. I am afraid that one day I will not be able to control them. That they will take over,” I mutter with my face still buried in my legs. It feels like I can’t breathe, the air comes in gasps or not at all. “Just leave me alone. Please.” Please.

“I can’t. I can’t leave you to deal with these demons all on your own. You have know idea how much I understand what you are going through.” He sighs and I hear him move the boxes I had used to create a wall between me and the world. I lift my head just enough to see him slide down the wall as he sits down next to me, but curl up again before he can notice. He places his hand on my back. “I understand completely Kenna. I won’t make you tell me everything now because I hope you will tell me yourself when you are ready, but will you tell me one thing?” I don’t respond, but it seems my breath is coming a little easier now. He continues, “How long have you been feeling this way?”

I lean into him, his hand falls to my side and he pulls me closer to him. I can feel the rhythm of his breathing and I feel my own breathing slow to match his. Should I tell him? How much should I tell him? Will he leave like everyone else? We sit like this for a few minutes before I finally lift my head and let my body relax a bit.

“It’s been a while.” My voice cracks as tears threaten to run down my cheeks. “I don’t remember exactly when it began, but it has been getting worse.” I turn my head so that his stormy eyes meet my golden brown ones. When he looks at me, I don’t see pity or contempt. I see concern. He actually cares. Everybody else just brushes it off and tells me it’s all in my head, which drives me crazy because that exactly the point. It’s in my head, but I can’t control it like they all seem to think. He believes me, and I feel like he actually understands. “I know,” I stutter, “I know I should get help. But I’m afraid. What if they can’t help me? What if I feel like this forever?”

He looks straight at me when he says, “I promise, we will find something that helps. And until we find whatever it is that helps you fight these demons, I will be right here, right next to you, whenever you need me. And you know that I am a man of my word Kenna, I have kept every promise I’ve ever made to you, haven’t I?”

I turn my head and look out at the room. When did it get so cluttered? I guess I haven’t been cleaning very often. “Yes, yes you have Dillon.” I rest my head against his chest. The tears make their escape and roll down my cheeks. “I could never have asked for a better friend. And I can’t let you go through all this with me. It sounds like you’ve already been here and gone through this. I can’t let you come back.”

When he speaks, I hear his voice crack. “Kenna, don’t you see?,” He holds me close. “That is exactly why I have to help. I have been there before, but I didn’t get out on my own. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had a whole support system behind me. My mom, my doctors, my best friend. They were there to help me, and I finally feel like I’ve found my purpose. I’m supposed to help you the way they helped me.”

Sitting here, with Dillon’s arms wrapped around me, I feel better than I have in weeks. I feel hopeful for the first time in weeks. We will get through this together. “I guess it’s settled then, I’m gonna go get some help,” I say quietly.

“And I’m going to be here every step of the way,” Dillon whispers. I feel a small smile start to form.

This room is a disaster. I stand up and take in the hazard that has become of my room. I hear Dillon stand up beside me. I place my hands on my hips, and ask “Can you help me with something first?”

“Anything,” he says.

“Can you help me clean the catastrophe that is my room?” I turn to look at him as he surveys the room as well.

A smile spreads across his face, and he says, “That is a very good first step. Messy rooms make everything else seem worse, even the demons. And, this isn’t that bad. You should have seen my room when I was in your place. I mean like I couldn’t see the floor. It was just gone.”

And before I know it, I find myself laughing and smiling.

“There’s my girl. Let’s tidy this up. Then we can grab frozen yogurt and figure out where you want to start on your path to normalcy,” he says as his smile gets bigger and I can see it in his eyes.

As we are making progress on my room, I turn and see Dillon folding the laundry I had been meaning to fold for months. From across the room, I say, “Hey Dillon.”

He responds with a, “hmmm”.

“Thank you.”

He turns to look at me now, as he says “For what?”

My eyes meet his as I say, “For everything.”

“Kenna, nobody should have to go through all this on their own. I am happy I can help.”

We finish cleaning my room and as I take the key out of my apartment door, Dillon smirks. I suspiciously ask, “What?”.

“Last one to your car has to pay for the fro yo!,” he shouts as he starts running toward the parking lot and my assigned parking spot.

I laugh and make my way to my car, taking the first steps on the road to normalcy with my best friend and making a detour to buy his some well deserved frozen yogurt.

 

Not Typical

I was quite young when I got my diagnoses. I was only 11 1/2 years old and had just started 6th grade. While I am no longer the little girl I was back then, I have always considered myself “mentally younger”. What I mean by this is that I have not changed as much as my peers had. While I can compose myself well to act my age, I do not always act my age. It is more noticeable when I am depressed or anxious, when I revert to wanting to watch Disney movies back to back and reread fairy-tales.

As I have gotten older, I have begun to learn my own limits better. When it seemed like all my classmates were dating, I knew I was not ready for a relationship. School was my priority while my classmates started to go to parties and act older than they are. While my friends want to go out drinking on weekends, I would rather stay home with a good book. If someone wants to hang out, there is a 50/50 chance that I will say yes. When people are over, I enjoy their company, but after a few hours I start wishing they will leave.

I am quiet and anxious and depressed and afraid of being judged for who I really am. I try to be more outgoing and carefree and happy, but I can only keep it up for so long. Some days this is easier to manage than others, but everybody had days like that, even the happiest person you know could be secretly struggling with depression or some other mental illness.

As of right now, I am content with who I am. I feel that I am finally starting to take on more adult responsibilities and I feel like I am finally beginning to find my niche. I try not to make my mom cover any costs for my cat and I will occasionally buy my own clothes despite not having an income. My mom is still my best friend, the one I tell everything to because making friends has always been hard for me. To be honest, I am a lot like my mom and that makes me happy because she is such a strong woman and an amazing role model. She respects that I have this blog to voice my opinions and for that I am grateful. I am lucky that I have always had her there for not many college students do and it made the adjustment to college easier knowing that every night I can go home and have her there.

While I may not have had the typical “college experience” thus far, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Then again, I am not a typical girl. If these differences are part of my mental illnesses or my personality or even a combination of the two, I wouldn’t change who I am for anyone. I have friends, albeit few, but its quality over quantity and the few I have are awesome. I have an amazing mom and a dad who tries his best while he struggles with mental illnesses of his own. I am quirky and lazy and would rather stay home with a book than go out and waste money that I don’t even have. I have my priorities straight, most of the time. My cat is a jerk, but I love her and she loves that I feed her and clean her litter box, who knows she might even love me back. I am very much introverted, but can be outgoing if I want to. I watch Disney movies, read fairy-tales, and wish on stars. I know that life is hard, but as long as I keep working hard and trying my best, I will make it out on my feet. And that is all I can ask for.