My grandmother died about six weeks ago. If you have read my previous posts you will immediately understand that this has been a devastating event in my life. It was my grandmother who taught me about these mental diseases, the ones that I suffer so greatly from. She taught me what never to do so that I may live a greater life than she could and she taught me when to look deep inside myself for the answers that life could not give me.
Since I was diagnosed I have taken her words to heart. Each story, each memory has been etched into my brain even when the most joyful moments of my children’s lives have been lost. I can remember a story my grandmother told me fifteen years ago but I often have troubled picturing my child’s first foray on his bicycle. Despite being present at each moment my brain has long since chosen what it will remember.
In many ways remembering what my grandmother taught me is probably good for the health and well-being of not only me but those that float in my orbit. By remembering the stories of destruction that my grandmother so easily carried out allows me to stop myself from doing the same to those I love. To me this is a entity making sure that the right memories are the ones kept. And I have learned to compensate by making sure I carry some kind of recording device around my children.
Because it was my grandmother who was so insistent that I look deep within myself for the answers that I needed and ultimately the safe guards that had to be put in place to guard my loved ones, I have come to realize many things about myself in this short journey that I have been on.
One of the most profound things I have learned recently is that I am incapable of great emotion. The ability to hate, love, live, die, find greatness and overcome destruction is stunted in me. While I can certainly laugh, it isn’t my default. While I am learning to cry, that isn’t something I am truly comfortable with; it’s simply too new in this journey of mine.
So when my grandmother died and I realized that there was a part of me that could not grieve for her, the landscape of my illness changed. There should be a understanding here that I can very definitely feel frustration and will often act out because that is the single emotion easily granted to me. But for the most part I think I live a half life, shut down and huddled in a corner because the emotions to live aren’t available to me. And if you don’t have true emotions, or if you can’t trust your own emotions, it is very hard to live.
It could be that my medication, the numerous pills that have been prescribed to me, simply work so well that they block the grand emotions that we are talking about. Maybe because my life is so invaded by this disease, those who are charged with my care require that I have very little emotion. Maybe it is society’s way of preserving their own safety. Maybe it is my brain’s reaction to these medications that are so prevalent because I know deep in my soul that there are only two innocent children in my life who have never deserved to see and know those deep emotions in my very diseased mind; maybe my brain uses the prescriptions to safely protect that which is most important to me.
Maybe those great emotions are buried so deep because I know instinctively through knowledge and experience the great toll it can take not only on me but those who love me. I have struggled with the idea of trust, the trust of myself and others, for the great majority of my life. We can bring in stories about my past, my parents, my exes, even the doctors I have been forced to see these many years to understand why I don’t trust. But what is more important is the possibility that this lack of trust in even my own self is rooted in the fear of what I am capable of. And despite how much my husband knows about me, it is only myself that truly understands what I am capable of. Is it the knowledge of what I am capable of that destroys my ability to live?
I could continue with ideas of why I can’t feel great emotion, but the truth is that it is such a combination of things that we would probably be here for years.
It is ironic that someone who has a disease that by its definition creates massive emotions struggles greatly to feel those same emotions. It is ironic that I was given a disease and no way to fully experience this life with it. Why do I shut down rather than know the emotions that might allow me to live a full and grateful life? Why do I shut down rather than deal with the reality? Is it cowardice or is it a lesson that life has taught me?
Not feeling great emotions is never good for a girl who is trying to embark on a career writing books. I will never be sitting in my cottage in Key West with three-legged cats and copious amounts of whiskey writing about the common man’s struggle. I will never shoot my ear off to feel pain so that I am better capable of painting emotions. It leaves me in a tug of war that probably can never end well. The war between wanting to know true emotion and the knowledge that it is not possible for me.
I came to realization that these great emotions don’t exist within me, or are at least buried so deep as to be unrecognizable, in the aftermath of my grandmother’s death. I haven’t to this day actually mourned my grandmother. The most influential person in my life has died and I have barely cried any tears or known a moment of great sadness.
I recently wrote a book – cross your fingers because the publisher has it now – and a chapter of the book was dedicated to my grandmother. In order to submit my proposal for this nonfiction book I had to reread the book. I had to make sure it was right one last time. So I read twenty-four of the twenty-five chapters and realized that I was stuck.
I literally could not open the chapter about my grandmother; literally the mouse could not click on that chapter. I couldn’t open the document. And I couldn’t bring myself to logically understand why. It was a chapter celebrating my grandmother, but there was a wall deep within me that simply couldn’t be scaled.
I think that there are times in all of our lives, but especially those of us who have lived with these mental diseases for so long, that our heart or our soul or our brains, protect us from the cauldron of emotions that must exist within us; even if we don’t know where. I think our own bodies make sure that our survival is guaranteed by sparing us and in extension those we love from our emotions. Somewhere we know that great emotion leads to great devastation, so our souls learn to avoid it completely.
I am saddened by the idea that while I can feel more emotion than the average person, those emotions are neither the full spectrum of human existence nor are they any more than pre-programmed responses that allow us to be less and therefore more in the eyes of those that surround us. How I would love to mourn the woman who changed my life. How I would give to know the great sadness of loss. Instead all I can do is find a way to continue with the way my soul has been formed and hope that one day life will be beautifully brilliant once again.
So sorry for your loss. It sounds as though your Grandmother understood you very well, and I’m sure she would regard the way you honor her memory as something more valuable than what is perceived to be “usual” mourning. G-uno