Our fears arise from things we don't confront. Once we are willing to look fully and deeply at the source of a fear, it loses its power.
- Shakti Gawain from the book One Day At A Time In Al-anon
1997 has been a terrible year with regards to my emotions and grief. I get up from the table make myself a cup of tea and again study the configuration on the table in front of me. It is a jigsaw puzzle of teddy bears. One piece seems to jump out at me, bidding for my attention. All of a sudden I'm starting to see things more clearly, despite the spaces. An assembly of teddy bears start to emerge, many fuzzy faces staring back at me. I pick up the phone... it rings and rings and rings, no answer! Damn! Where is everybody? My life is falling apart!!!! I'm getting desperate.....I DON'T KNOW WHAT I MIGHT DO!!!! Or what I expect anyone else to do! Why the hell didn't anyone realize that Gordon's meds where still here - Morphine, Dilaudid, anti-depressants, plus my anti-depressants... what more would I need to relieve me of my pain? Emotional and physical. Again I call.....finally someone -another PHA - Sean - answers the phone.
"What's wrong Church Mouse?" he asks. "Everything! I miss Gordon! I feel like I am losing my grip on reality!" He tries his best to offer support. He was an acquaintance and didn't know me as well as my other friends.We talk for a bit and I promise I will get some help the next day.
Back to my puzzle; I am restless. I keep the curtains drawn so no one can see me falling apart. Pain floods over me. I am still sobbing when the phone rings, giving me a start.
"How are you?" The voice on the other end of the phone asks. "NOT GOOD!" I blurt out, staring at the mass of teddy bears through blurry eyes. I suspect there are a few pieces missing. These last couple of pieces don't fit properly. My head hurts from crying so much.
Now comes the big question.... "What happened, Church Mouse? You seemed fine the last time we talked."
"I don't want to go on!... I don't think I can!... It's too hard!"
She asks, "what would Gordon think?"
"I can't say! I don't know!"
I am so tired of all the pressure on myself to stay in control all the time. I'm not sure she understands. I assure her I will be okay - that I just needed to vent.
The next day, I get a call from my support worker, Mary.
"What's going on, Church Mouse?" Not wanting to make an issue out of how I was feeling I replied, "what do you mean?"
"A little birdie told me that he was worried about your emotional state." Well, I tell her, "I don't trust myself." My emotions hit me like a tidal wave. "I don't know if I am sick or I just think I am!"
Mary replies, "get your bags packed. I have booked you a retreat in Toronto for PHAs, caregivers and people living or working in the field of AIDS." I'm sure my life won't have a drastic change after this week, but, I hoped I would come away with a renewed spirit.
I arrive in Toronto to find wonderful, caring people, who listen patiently as I share who Church Mouse is, and sympathize with the fact that I have a sore mouth and can barely eat. (Even a glass of water hurt.) Even though I am there and in good company I am a mess emotionally and physically. One evening after everyone went to bed I toss and turn, hoping sleep would soon come. But instead I suffer my worst panic attack. So much so that I pull the dresser in front of the open window. I am on the second floor of a college dormitory. My heart is pounding, I am sweating and my mind is racing. I am thinking how easy it would be to slide myself out onto that window ledge. There is an internal war going on . The best I can do is pray for some relief.
I am still awake when the sun comes up. I made it through the night! In that state of mind I cannot not see how my actions would affect those who loved me. As soon it is light, out of course I fall asleep. One of the ladies (Lillian ) comes to see if I was coming down for lunch. By this time I had showered and was down in the dining room. She must have wondered why the dresser was in front of the window. She doesn't say anything except that she was concerned because she didn't see me at breakfast.
If I remember right, Lillian worked at Casey House (a long term home for people living with AIDS) as a Chaplin. I was drawn to her caring spirit. I ask Lillian if we can go outside the retreat for a coffee? As we walk along the street past the Hockey Hall of Fame I am fighting back the tears. As we are sitting having our coffee, Lillain comments, "I sense that you are holding something back, Church Mouse?" I try several times (with painful pauses) to tell her why I am so upset. Finally with much shame I tell her how I feel like a hypocrite!
"How could I have a stronger faith in Gordon (my husband) than I have in God?"
She says "it is because you could see Gordon - but it is okay, because he was my messenger to God." My shoulders sink in relief. I feel like a balloon that had the air let out. Now that I feel safe sharing with Lillian and knowing that she isn't judging me I continue to tell her the rest of how I don't trust myself and about how my thoughts of suicide consume me. She quietly listens to my desperate words. She assures me, "you don't have to join Gordon to have a connection with him." I tell her there is a wall between us and I need to break through it. She tells me that through prayer and meditation I may be able to make that wall more transparent.
"Keep writing to him. He is always with you."
We are able to get my room switched to a main floor and I sleep a lot better.
Back home I am still fighting the demons of depression, trying to hide my feelings from those who would rather not talk about them. I feel like my emotions have no place in the real world! I need to keep talking to Patricia (the Chaplin at the hospital) who has been helping me to deal with my grief.
The teddy bear puzzle is now complete and glued to a piece of card board - a reminder that the pieces of my life will eventually fit together.