Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Leave a comment

Back to Basics

When I lecture on death/dying, I often talk about how even with all our modern marvels of medicine, human life always comes back to two basic needs- eating and sleeping. When a person is undergoing treatment, neither eating or sleeping is easy to come by. Palliative/comfort care often restores exactly that- the ability to eat and sleep more easily. That is why research shows that people often live longer with palliative care than they do with curative care (chemo, radiation, etc.).

I’ve been thinking about how recently my eating and sleeping have been not been doing so well. Honestly, not eating well has been a lifelong problem. It has been the exception when I have been able to get a handle on eating properly. I’ve actually been successful, but only for brief periods of time. Every day I wake up and attempt to do so again, but usually by 2:00 pm I’ve sunk again. I have all the education I need, I just don’t have the motivation or willpower to follow through. Or something.

I tried to think of a baby step I could take and I came up with setting up a task in my calendar that comes with an alarm. At 8 am every day, I want to have a protein shake. That will start my day correctly and maybe if it is an actual task that needs to be checked off, I can put my OCD to good use. If I can get that to be habitual, my next goal will be to set a reminder up at 9 pm that says, “No more eating” and eventually decrease the time until 7 pm.

Sleeping is another lifelong battle. Even my baby books talk about the problems I had. I’m sure I had night terrors, they just hadn’t been named yet. I’ve done sleep tests at different ages. I’ve tried all the different medicines there are. But lately, I’ve just gotten in a bad habit of watching Netflix until 1 in the morning. Then I don’t want to (or can’t sometimes) get up when I used to. After waking Frankie for school, I go back to sleep. By mid-afternoon I need a nap in order to get through my activities. Vicious cycle. Once I nap, then I’m up at night again.

My baby step was again to add a daily task set up with an alarm. My goal for the first few days is to go to bed at 11 pm, WITHOUT Netflix or anything else. Even if I just lay there, it will help break the habit. Then I can lower the time by 30 minutes until I get to bed at a more decent time for me.

So simple, but sometimes I just have to hit myself over the head. Your eating and sleeping is off, Darcy so it is effecting everything else. You need to fix it.

Tiny, elementary steps that I feel like I shouldn’t need to still be making at 50 years old, but yet here I am. Small, incremental steps are the only way that I know of though, to make changes that won’t make me want to jump off a cliff.

Sigh.

I love the ‘ol AA slogan: One day at a time. It’s better than not trying at all, right?


1 Comment

Grey’s Anatomy

I’m usually several years behind whatever popular thing is happening out there. I didn’t watch Star Wars til after 2000. I was a little better with Harry Potter and started watching before the last one came out. Having Frankie forced me to get with it a little sooner. Grey’s Anatomy is in its 13th season I think. I just discovered it a few months ago. Yes, I am addicted.

I can’t imagine watching it sooner than this though. At the end of every cliff hanger, I only have to hit “watch next episode” and I get to know what happens. I usually stop about five minutes into a show rather than the end. No waiting a week, and definitely no waiting for the next season to start. I get too immersed. I couldn’t take it.

I’ve watched almost 11 seasons so far. There are 24 episodes per season. Each episode is about 42 minutes. You do the math (I’m too lazy). That’s a lot of time to spend watching Derek and Meredith’s relationship evolve. Netflix has gotten me through too many lonely nights to count. Wait, let me say that just a little bit differently. Netflix has saved me from having lonely nights.

Last night though, well, it kept me tossing and turning all night. Imagine my shock and surprise when Derek Shepherd actually died. They even did that horrible scene where Meredith walks in the hospital room and crawls in bed next to him and you think he survived the surgery. Then you realize she is only fantasizing. Brutal reality is he really died. They actually let one of the main stars of the show die. I cried like a big baby after I recovered from the shock.

What an amazing portrayal of grief over the next couple of episodes. Every one of the main characters struggles over the next year in their own way to make sense of their loss. Bailey, Callie, April, Owen… Meredith continues to be a fascinating and complex character. She just takes her kids and disappears for a year. She couldn’t breathe so she just left until she could come back. I am just a people-dependent person, I can’t even fathom being alone to work on my grief for a few days, much less a year. Of course being incredibly rich and having the means to do such a thing is also convenient. I understood her, but I didn’t resonate.

That is until she returns home. There are several scenes of showing her lying awake in bed. The nights are always the worst. She would stare at Derek’s empty pillow and I could feel my gut ache with hers.

The person that made me sob though, was Amelia’s character. She is Derek’s brother and a tough nut to crack. She is a recovering addict and has lost every single male in her life. She witnessed her father’s murder as a child. She woke up to her addicted fiance’s corpse, and then delivered his dead baby nine months later. And now her only brother who she is incredibly close to has died. She spends an entire year cracking jokes about her dead brother.

Cut to the scene where she is pacing with drugs in her hand. Her moment has come. Owen appears on the scene and talks about how pain is part of life. We get through excruciating sorrow so that we can be ready for when it hits the next time. But it is truly life and is meant to be experienced and not avoided through drugs, running away, or whatever else we do to avoid loss. Thankfully, she tosses the drugs and then the loss hits her. It was so difficult to watch. I don’t know if she ever won any acting awards, but she should have. I sobbed out loud as I watched her grapple with the reality of a lifetime of grief. I believed she was a real person with real grief. I resonated with her and she broke my heart.

If I was teaching grief and loss, I think I would make my students watch those several episodes and I would be pausing it every few minutes to point out the lessons that were being put out there so poignantly. Grief is hard work, and everyone has their own way to wade through it. But one thing is clear, it cannot be escaped.


1 Comment

Ally McBeal

I absolutely love Netflix. Since the summer, I have really been working at being more comfortable being alone. Truth be told, the magic answer was in putting Netflix on my phone. I can lay in my bed for hours and hours and watch stuff on my phone. I watch series that start with the very first season and watch until I’ve completed it.

First, I watched Breaking Bad. I loved and hated it. I was so disturbed by it, I can’t even watch that actor in another movie now. No amount of reality talking in my head about how he was a real human just playing a fictional character will do it. I hate that Walter dude, no matter where I see him.

I decided in order to avoid a psychotic break, I needed to switch gears. I watched Friends. Ten freaking sessions. And you remember the old days. A season was actually 26 episodes, not seven like they do now.

Currently, I am switching back and forth between two series – Criminal Minds and Ally McBeal. I am convinced now that I am in season eight of Criminal Minds, that I am an excellent profiler. Put me on a serial killer case and I could figure it out. Of course, I’m no Spencer Reid, but he is one of a kind.

Then there is Ally McBeal. I used to watch her after I was divorced and had moved back to the Buffalo area. I loved her. Now that I am re-watching her, I know why. I swear, I AM Ally McBeal. The description of her show describes her as “unlucky in love.” I can certainly wear that label proudly.

She is incredibly quirky, which makes me giggle out loud when I watch. She is also terribly klutzy, which I unfortunately am also quite good at.  I asked a friend today what I should blog about, and he said thankfulness. It reminded me of an episode that I watched recently.

It was Thanksgiving, and Ally’s roommate walked into the living room to find her kicking their expensive couch cushions across the room. Ally was on a roll, being “thankful” for all the blessings in her life. It is hard to explain, but she was clearly being sarcastic. And yet she wasn’t. Overall, she is grateful and positive, but when you are “supposed” to be thankful, and then thankfulness is supposed to be the secret key to finding happiness, you can get pretty sarcastic.

So she went on with her list of items she was grateful for, and concluded with how especially grateful she was that Christmas was around the corner. She said the word Christmas with such disdain, it sounded like a curse word.

Only people who have experienced loneliness – I mean true, gut-wrenching loneliness – will understand that disdain. Holidays completely suck when you are lonely. Christmas is one of the worst.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in being thankful. I believe thankfulness is a powerful, powerful force in our lives. But I also know that there should never been an assumption that if you are sad, lonely, or in a depression, that the anecdote is necessarily learning to be grateful for your blessings. I believe with all my heart that I have recognized many, many blessings and amazing human beings that I am heartily grateful for (pun intended) and yet still experience profound sadness, loneliness, or depression. In fact, when you know all these things, you just add guilt to your list of negative affects because you know there are plenty of people out there who have less than you do. What right do I have to feel depressed?

Anyhow, even though it’s not Thanksgiving, try to revisit Ally McBeal. You will laugh your buns off, and you will probably also understand me on a different level. By the way, I’m currently NOT experiencing a lot of loneliness or depression, which I am VERY grateful for! 🙂