When I first left The Before, I jumped straight into a happy bubble, stunned and wonderous at how big and new the world was. I went about, oblivious and dazed for about a month. It felt great.
The one day, it all hit hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. I was just sitting there one day, when suddenly everything crashed in on me – every single emotion on the spectrum of emotions reared its ugly head and filled up my mind. I felt everything: anger, rage, sadness, guilt, fear, anxiety, desolation; sometimes also relief, quiet, peace, relief again, even clarity. And then the rage and sadness all over again. It’s been like that every since, just one ride after another on a giant theme park of emotions…. but mostly just repeated rides on the pirate ship. You know, the one that swings you from one sickening height to another, like a pendulum, so that each time the damned ship sinks back down again, you feel like your stomach is still hanging in the air as the rest of your plunges down.
Friends have also talked to me about the first stages of loss and I’ve thought about this too, amidst all the swinging of the pirate ship. And I know, I know – you wonder why I could even have the right to feel “loss” when I was the one who made this decision – but it’s because, when I think back now, there were many things that I’d already lost along the way to making that decision.
So the five stages: there was that initial shock and denial of the first month, when I walked about in that happy, oblivious daze, like nothing mattered anymore, like all those years just didn’t exist. Blank.
Then there was the anger and rage, which I’ve written about before – I felt so angry that it felt violent, and this was scary. All I would do for those few weeks was to exercise for hours until I was too exhausted to feel anything anymore.
In between all this, there is bargaining – all the “what ifs” and the couldas shouldas wouldas. Bargaining brings his two great friends along too – guilt and fear, which plagues you any time, all the time.
And most recently over the last week, the sadness, which runs so deep and so painfully that all I could do was swallow one sleeping pill after another until I knocked out so completely I couldn’t even dream. I wouldn’t wish this sadness on anyone (ok, well I admit that in my moments of anger, there are a few choice individuals I would totally wish this on). It’s so completely heart-breaking that it makes you feel physically sick, and so empty that all you want to do is turn it off like a button – so you swallow more pills: dormicum and xanax and nytol, sometimes all at once.
Of course, none of this happens in a nice linear way so you can expect when to feel what. It swings like a mad pendulum gone off whack. Sometimes, in between, there are clear moments – like today – and I feel like maybe things are on the rise again. Dark clouds seem to be shifting and all those other cliches of lights, tunnels and pots of gold. But the mind is a tricky, conniving, nasty little thing and a cruel one, that it would even trick itself – because just as you start to relax and think things are okay again, that damn pirate ship in your head starts swinging its way back down, and you just sit and wait for that sickening feeling again as you leave your stomach up in the air.
Eventually, they say, there is acceptance and peace, and I’ve seen a few little glimpses of it, that respite, pause, in between the ship’s mad swinging. Even theme park rides have to come to an end at some point in the day, the incredibly velocity of the pirate’s ship slows down and the hurtling lessens. Soon, it just becomes a little rocking again, almost peaceful. And eventually, thank heavens and everyone that lives in it, the ride stops and you can get off.