Hold on…let me overthink this

So much of my anxiety is anticipatory. Like 90% of it. I know this, yet it is really hard to control. It is almost impossible to tell myself to just simply not think about something. It would be like me saying to you, “close your eyes and DON’T think about the color blue.” ALL you are going to do is think about and imagine the color blue. Since so much of my anxiety is related to travel and most travel or trips or drives are planned and not spontaneous, I suffer from anticipatory anxiety almost constantly. If I am invited to a dinner or event, I anticipate it for the days leading up to it. I overplan, checking Waze and other maps to see how long it will take to get there. I overthink all the different things that could go wrong or the elements I can’t control.

Even with horrible anxiety and panic disordered, I have always been pretty independent. I preferred (and still do prefer) to drive somewhere alone. I never want to be a burden to someone or ruin their time by having anxiety. My sister went away for a weekend over this past summer, during the same time I had a negative reaction to a new antidepressant, and I had the closest thing to a nervous breakdown I have ever experienced. It is still hard to think- or write- about. My sister has been planning a girls’ weekend trip to Florida for the first weekend in December (like fly out Friday and home Monday) and I have been soooooo anxious about it. It has literally ruined the entire month of November for me. I just think over and over, like a broken record, that I don’t want her to go. Selfishly, it isn’t that I think something will happen to HER, rather it is that I think something will happen to ME.

I have never been or felt so dependent on other people. I never had this kind of a reaction to someone else going away. I was desperately hoping for something to happen to prevent her from going, but I also knew that wasn’t fair to her. She didn’t ask to be my person like this and she is a hard-working mom who deserves a fun weekend away. It has been difficult because she is the person I am closest to and who I would confide in the most about these things, but I don’t want her to feel guilty about leaving me or me being upset.

The most confusing thing about this is that I don’t logically know WHY I need her so much or why I am so afraid for her to be away. But, like most people with anxiety, I know that logic really goes out the window. My therapist has pointed out many times that I am actually the one who does things almost daily for my sister, whether it is babysitting my nieces, running errands, picking something up for her, helping her with something at her house, etc. I do a lot for my sister and yet I feel this immense panic at the thought of her being far away.

It is frustrating because I don’t need ANOTHER thing to be anxious about. I have enough things already and now it feels like I am adding something new to the list, while still not making a lot of progress on my existing triggers.

Well, that didn’t go as planned…

Like most teachers, I tend to kick off my summer with ambition plans. THIS summer was finally going to be the one where I focused on my health and practiced self-care. I was going to make myself a little daily plan that included hitting the gym and eating well. I was going to read a ton and walk a lot and go in my pool and see my friends for lunch and do some small house updates, etc.

Well, to say that things did not go as planned would literally be the understatement of the freaking century. I am not a person who does well without routine and since I didn’t have a job to wake up for (or kids to take care of or really any other responsibilities besides feeding my cats), I ended up lounging around a lot. And then that turned into staying home more. And then THAT turned into me getting more anxious when I DID have to go somewhere. Only a few weeks into my “relaxing, self-care, healthy me! summer” and I told my therapist that I thought I needed to go back on an antidepressant. This was not a shock to either of us because my issues with agoraphobia started to spiral out of control in the spring, after two years of covid giving me a completely valid excuse to not have to go anywhere. I guess I convinced myself that I was going to use my summer off to work on getting better and expand my comfort zone, but then the opposite happened.

I went to my doctor and she prescribed me Prozac. I have taken a few different medications over the past two decades, so I was open to trying something new. I have a lot of medication anxiety (which is the literal definition of irony when you need medication because of having anxiety). But I knew that I needed to go on something and I accepted that. The first couple of days were fine. I had a little dry mouth and lost my appetite completely. I can definitely afford to lose some weight, so this side effect wasn’t a deal breaker.

After only being on the medication for a week, my sister left on a four day vacation with her family that was about a five to six hour car ride away from the town we both live in. I was anxious about her leaving. She has always been my “person” (or if you are a Friends fan…my “lobster”), so I was uncomfortable about her being so far away, but I tried not to burden her with my fears because I was happy she was taking a well deserved vacation with my nieces and brother-in-law.

She left and I COMPLETELY LOST MY SHIT. I honestly don’t even know what happened. I have had panic attacks obviously, but they usually hit and then subside. I have had lingering anxiety, but even that eventually has a period of relief. I had what felt like panic attacks 24 hours a day the whole time she was gone. I have never experienced anything like it. I completely shut down and wouldn’t talk to anyone. I could not get off my couch. There were times I wanted the blanket off my legs and I couldn’t do it- I couldn’t muster the energy to peel the blanket off of myself. I didn’t eat, hardly drank water, and just felt like I was having heart palpitations. I obsessively thought about needing to go to a mental institution or the hospital. I desperately wanted her to come home. No one else could soothe me at all, not for lack of trying. I felt like I was crawling out of my own skin and I was terrified about what was happening to me.

I called my doctor, who told me to stop the Prozac. I somehow survived the weekend and my sister came home. I thought that as soon as she was home, I would immediately feel better. I didn’t. It’s been another week now and I am just starting to feel a little better. I still am having SO much anxiety and am taking Xanax several times a day. I have had a bunch of extra appointments with my psychologist. I even went back to the doctor and unfortunately, my primary care physician was on vacation and I saw another doctor, who told me to (and I literally quote) “bake a cake for your sister and read The Secret” and then she patted my arm and said, “you feel better, right? Ok good”.

I desperately tried to find a new psychiatrist and it was SO hard. It really made me realize how messed up our mental health care system is. And I am privileged enough to have health insurance and the internet and the ability to make phone calls. My appointment isn’t until Tuesday and I am just trying to make it through each day until then.

I don’t know if it was a negative reaction to the medication or just complete fear of being without my sister, but I was genuinely so scared and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I still do not feel right. I am still so anxious. It is not completely crippling like it was last week, but it is there- steady and festering. I am scared about what to do next. My mother came to my house to sit next to me and make me shower and I remember saying to her that I promise I would never hurt myself, but that I can now understand why people do. I wanted the panic and fear and pain to end. I still do. I literally felt that I was going to die.

I feel like this all just sounds so stupid and is just not capturing how bad I felt. But I guess those who know, know. I still don’t feel like myself. I worry about the damage I did to my relationship with my completely normal and not mentally ill AT ALL boyfriend, who was so sweet and caring and probably shit scared. I know the feeling of helplessness that comes when you are the one having to deal with this. I am sure he sees me differently now. I worry about the stress I caused my family, the burden I have placed on my sister, the guilt that I have or will negatively influence my sweet little nieces.

I hate this. If I won the billion dollar mega millions lottery yesterday, I would trade the winning ticket to make this go away forever. Every shooting star, ever birthday cake candle, every time the clock shows 11:11, I make the same wish: please make my anxiety go away. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of it. I realized this week that I have suffered from anxiety and panic and agoraphobia for almost HALF OF MY LIFE now.

So, my only plan now is to try to stay busy, make myself eat and drink enough to stay alive and make it to this appointment with the new psychiatrist. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I keep seeing my friends’ pictures on social media of them being at the beach or on vacation or at a concert and I have shut most of them out and when they ask me what I did over the summer, I am not sure if I should be like “had a total nervous breakdown”?? Maybe I should actually read The Secret and learn to bake so I can just say I did that (I kid). I have always been my own worst enemy so I am trying to just go easy on myself, but it is really hard sometimes to just hate the mental illness and not actually hate me.

Metamorphosis (part 1)

Part 1: The Caterpillar

Covid was one of the best things to happen to me as far as my agoraphobia goes. Nowhere to go, nothing to do…everyone HAD to stay home. For two years, I had the perfect excuse to not go anywhere. There were no vacations, no trips to the city, no concerts at the beach, no day trips, no overnight visits…nowhere to go, nothing to do. For two years, my comfort zone steadily shrank and my anxiety was practically nonexistent. That aspect of quarantine was wonderful. I was stuck at home, newly in love, and so content to just snuggle on the couch with him binging Netflix and Hulu. I still did weekly therapy, focusing on remote teaching, my new relationship, and the death of my exboyfriend. But, inevitably, life has started to go back to “normal” and I am left feeling very not normal. I knew Covid was a causing a huge step back when it came to my agoraphobia, but I don’t think I really grasped how much it negatively affected me. Before Covid, my “comfort zone” was an hour and a half or so. I still got anxious going somewhere new, but it was pretty manageable. I struggled with bigger trips and flying was still a huge obstacle, but I was doing ok. Over the past two years, my comfort zone significantly shrank to being about 25 minutes or so and I don’t like being in the car with other people. I especially am anxious about driving with my boyfriend and his two children. I have spent a lot of time in therapy talking about the need to expand my horizons and widen my comfort zone, but I haven’t actually acted on it. A couple of weeks ago, my friends went on an overnight girls trip to a place about two hours away. Even before Covid this trip was not one I usually went on, but this time I didn’t say no right away. I really did think a lot about going, but the length of the drive, coupled with a night at a bar and sleeping in a hotel was just overwhelming and I did not go. I obsessed over the decision, cried a lot, and was incredibly hard on myself for not being ready to do it. I realized that I had to stop just saying I was going to take drives and push myself and I needed to start just doing it. A couple of days ago, I drove (with my boyfriend) to my parent’s house, which is about 45 minutes away. Even though it is a route I had done hundreds of times in my life, I have only been to my hometown two times in the past two years and I had not driven that distance with my boyfriend before. It was the tiniest of accomplishments, but still was a step in the right direction and it was better than nothing. I decided that I am going to try to drive to the beach tomorrow morning by myself. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes away. I know the only way I am going to get better is to keep pushing myself to drive more often and go a little further each time. I am going to bed tonight telling myself that there is no pressure. If I start driving and can’t make it, I can go home and try another time. So…until tomorrow…

(Too) Close for Comfort

Living through a pandemic was obviously challenging in many different ways, but there were also some things that having to quarantine for a year and a half made easier…for one, my agoraphobia. It was definitely a nice break from having to constantly worry about going places because there was, quite literally, nowhere to go. Reflecting back on it now, I can definitely see how this caused some major setbacks for me. My “comfort area” has drastically narrowed and I have not had to push myself to leave it for a long time. Before COVID, I was okay with driving about two hours from home in most directions, but now I am probably hovering around an hour. I know that now that things are opening back up, I have to start pushing myself to go places, but it is just so hard. It. Is. So. Hard.

This past weekend, my boyfriend and I were discussing going to his mother’s beach house about an hour and a half away. Naturally all of the logistics pushed their way into my head- “it is the first weekend of the summer”, “everyone and their mother is going to be there”, “it will be SO crowded”, “the traffic is going to be a nightmare”. This is the doozy for me every time, the nail in the coffin…the traffic that I will have no control over. And then all the what-ifs start piling on….”what if I get sick?”, “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if there is an accident and the road is closed?”, “what if I have to go to the hospital?” (mind you, in my 42 years of life, I have gone to the hospital exactly one time for bronchitis).

Years ago, my therapist asked me what the worst part of thinking about flying was for me. Easy…”I can’t get off the plane if I want or need to”. She replied, “WHY would you NEED to get off the plane?” I still have never really had a good answer to that question.

The problem with anxiety and agoraphobia is that I can sit here and have a perfectly logical conversation about it. I am intelligent and well-educated. I have read articles, editorials, self-help books, etc. about these disorders. I can even be my own devil’s advocate (well, really, why WOULD you need to get off?). But, the problem is that once you start feeling those feelings, all logic goes out the window. I can’t control the wave of panic or the sensation that I can’t breathe or my body feeling on fire or any of the other multiple physical reactions that come along with these thoughts. I know it is all about lack of control. I know that. But when it is happening, it is really hard to remember that I don’t need to be in control.

I started dating my boyfriend a few months before quarantining began. It has been a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we had so much time alone together to be a couple, to learn about each other, to enjoy each other’s company. Also, we work together and he is my boss, so although it is something that was disclosed to HR, it caused a lot of gossip. It was nice to be able to take a step back from that. Now that things are “normal”, he and I are old news and no one really cares

It has been a curse because he wasn’t exposed to this side of me. Obviously, I told him I have these problems from the beginning. I would never hide that from anyone. But it has been very easy for him to say that it is no big deal, he can handle it, it wouldn’t change anything about how he feels, etc. I believe him that he believes himself when he says these things, but I also know that dealing with this can get old quickly. It is easy to say it is not a big deal until the time he wants me to go somewhere and I can’t do it.

And therein lies the other problem. My boyfriend is the most amazing, patient, understanding, caring man I have ever been with. I am so lucky to be with him. Even through the death of my ex-boyfriend and my grieving process, he has been unwavering in his support. Okay, that is not the problem. The problem is that I feel like I don’t deserve him. It isn’t like I have super low self-esteem, it is more like I feel like I am not worthy of him. He is so normal and I feel like I am so…flawed. He had a pretty normal upbringing and I had an extremely dysfunctional family and an abusive alcoholic father. In some ways, being with my ex was easier because he was more messed up than I was. That sounds mean in light of his recent passing, but it is true. I took care of him, I had my shit together, and even though I had these issues, his issues with addiction and depression dominated our relationship. Now, I feel insecure that when my new boyfriend sees the REAL me, he is going to end things or not love me anymore. I have never really felt like this before (not liking it). I have shared a little bit of this with him and he is so reassuring and sweet and always asks me, “why do you think that?”

I don’t know…why do I need to get off the plane?

Bye 2019…thanks for nothing.

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I hated 2019.  Like DESPISED it.  In March, my boyfriend of nine years went through alcohol withdrawal and was put in a medically induced coma on a breathing tube and ventilator.  It lasted 17 extremely long days.  His 28 day hospital stay resulted in his (sort-of) recovery, but the end of our relationship.  I was with him the whole time and I feel like I will never get over the trauma of seeing the man I love in that condition.  However, I was finally starting to feel a little better this month…I got through Thanksgiving and could see the end of the year finally approaching…a fresh, new start.

And then my father was put into a medically induced coma on a breathing tube and ventilator last Thursday.  What. The. Actual. Hell? How do two people that I am very close with, the two men in my life, BOTH end up in comas within the same year???  Thankfully, my dad was removed from the sedation and the breathing tube was removed last night and he seems do be doing ok.  Yesterday was touch and go and in the morning, his condition was bad enough for a palliative nurse to speak to us about a DNR order and “quality of life” concerns.

I just can’t believe it.  I feel like I keep saying that over and over.  How did this happen to TWO people? In ONE year? Six more hours until this horrible, traumatic, heartbreaking, life-changing year is over and I can’t wait.

Holiday Spirits <—-pun intended

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I have so many different things to write about, I do not know where to begin.  One of the topics, I am not ready to delve into, so for now I will stick to the one I know best: dealing with alcoholics.  So, here is a special holiday edition of Thanksgiving updates on the three drunks in my life, who coincidentally ALL drink vodka…

  1. The ex-boyfriend. Thanksgiving was not as bad as I thought it would be.  I had one 45 minute breakdown.  I know it is not healthy, but I would occasionally “unblock” my ex-boyfriend’s Instagram page to see if he was okay.  It felt like the only last tiny connection I had to him.  When I went to check it on Thanksgiving, I realize that he made his page private.  I was already upset because this was always ‘our” holiday and it was the first one without him, but I felt like him doing that was unexpected.  Maybe he knew I was checking on him.  Maybe he met someone.  Maybe he wants privacy.  I feel so far away from him now.  In nine years, this is the longest I have gone without seeing or speaking to him.  But, I suppose that is what happens in a break up.  And I have to remind myself that I was the one who said I could not be in contact with him anymore.  I don’t know how to ever stop worrying if he is alright, but I know there is nothing I can do if he is not.
  2. The father. My dad was good on Thanksgiving, very well-behaved.  I actually took a selfie with him and at one point leaned up against him on the couch.  We took family pictures.  It was nice.  Friday, he was terrible…leaving mean voicemails and sending shitty text messages.  Saturday, my sister and I had already agreed to go to my parent’s house to help them with some things and he was totally fine again.  It is was like a sober-drunk-sober sandwich over the course of three days.  He is truly a Jekyll and Hyde. 
  3. The friend’s boyfriend. My good friend, practically my sister, is in a terrible and abusive relationship with an alcoholic.  She is 18 weeks pregnant and he just got his third DWI over the previous weekend.  I felt so badly for her- they were supposed to do the gender reveal for the baby on Thanksgiving.  But, I also do not understand why she stays with him.  I try not to think about it too much, because after 30+ years, I still do not understand why my mother has never left my dad.  Today, my friend’s boyfriend put his hands around her neck and pushed her against a wall.  He threatened her and then pushed her outside into the snow, refusing to let her back in.  My sister (her best friend) called her brother and he ran over to the apartment.  My friend’s boyfriend then assaulted him, was arrested and the brother is pressing charges, although my friend still will not.  I realized while all of this was going on, I was feeling such anxiety.  It is hard for me to be a good friend to her and support her while separating my own experiences and it brings back a lot of my own traumatic memories.  She is safe now and that is all that matters in the moment.

I am so thankful that I do not live with an alcoholic anymore.  My house is so calm and peaceful.  I feel such a sense of independence and freedom.  However, I also know that had my ex not gotten so sick and also cheated, I may not have ever left him.  That is a hard pill to swallow.  So, it makes me less judgmental of other women going through this.  I got an “out” and I took it and for that, I am so grateful.  I may not have shown strength throughout the bad parts of our relationship and I know I should have ended things with him years ago, but at least I put myself first when I got the chance.

Holidays can be so stressful and sad and sentimental.  I am trying to be positive, but I also know I need to allow myself to experience my emotions.  I have been through so much and I do not feel healed, but I know that I am in a much better place than I was a year ago, so if there is any silver lining, it is that.  But I am really tired of alcoholics…

The girl…

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I came across a website recently, http://www.lisaoliveratherapy.com, and I have found it to be SO inspirational.  She is a therapist who writes so elegantly, but also her messages are so relatable.  I am still having a very difficult time “letting go”, not only of my exboyfriend, but also of the entire traumatic experience I went through with him.

In this blog, she writes about how we sometimes identity with our hurt to the point where we “become” it and begin to over-identify with it.  I definitely have a tendency to do this.  During my childhood and teenage years, I was the “girl with the crazy abusive alcoholic father”.  I started having problems with anxiety when I was in my 20s (which I am still dealing with) and I took on the identity of the “girl with anxiety who couldn’t get on a plane or drive far”.  After my marriage ended at age 31, I became the “girl who went through a terrible divorced’.  And now I have become the “girl whose sat at the bedside of her alcoholic boyfriend of eight years while he was in a coma for 17 days, even after she found out he was lying and cheating on her, and even though she saved his life, his parents still treated her as a scapegoat.”

I go down these rabbit holes where I become the tragedy…it defines my life, my identity, my day to day routine.  I have an obsessive tendency and I must have said, “I don’t understand why his parents treated me the way they did” like 2,000 times over the past six months. It is like I can’t get over it…I don’t know HOW to get over it and there’s a weird tiny part of me that doesn’t want to get over it.  I am not saying that I like to feel like a victim, I truly don’t, but I desperately want some kind of acknowledgment from his parents for the sacrifices I made for their son.  My friends advise me that I need to let it go, that not every situation ends with closure and I know they are right.  My exboyfriend tells me all the time that he knows how much I did for him (and the fact that we are still in contact will be the subject of my next blog…still really struggling with enforcing boundaries), but I feel like I deserve more.

Unbeknownst to me, he contacted his parents and told them that the rift between them and me was negatively affecting his recovery and he threatened to cease contact with them if they did not try to rectify things with me.  This is the complete opposite of what I want and I was very upset when he told me this.  But of course, I got an email from his father a couple of days later saying that he told them I think they hate me and they don’t and they also don’t “hold a grudge against me” (what the actual fuck? what possible grudge could they even HAVE against me????).  His dad proceeded to write that all they care about is their son’s recovery and that the day he walked into the ICU and saw him in the coma was the worst day of his life.  All the email did was make me more angry.  There was no mention of me at all (and I do truly understand all they care about is him, but COME ON…throw me a bone).  Does his father think it wasn’t the worst day of my life?? At first, they were not even going to travel to come here and then it took them two days to get to the hospital.

I know for myself that I have to find a way to stop making my whole life and identity about this and him.  I am preventing myself from moving on, but there is something safe about that…like that expression, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”.  I am terrified about dating or meeting someone new.  I cannot imagine being in a relationship with anyone but him.  And if I am honest with myself (which is why I started this blog), part of me feels unlovable and fears no one else will want me.  I feel so broken, so damaged.  On the surface, I look like I have it all together, but inside I am a freaking mess.  Who would want that? And even if I found someone, how will I ever trust them? I am holding on to all of this because I am scared to move on and as long as I can wrap myself in trauma and continue identifying as “the girl”…, no one else can hurt me.

Need vs. Want

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I have always had a hard time putting my own needs first and I am also too much of a people pleaser.  When my exboyfriend left a little over a week ago to stay with his parents, I was so devastated to say goodbye, but I have to admit that I felt a little relief.  Relief that the ordeal in the hospital was over and relief that I no longer had to live with an alcoholic.  Once he was gone, I thought that I would be able to start dealing with everything that happened- the endless hours in the hospital, fearing he would die, learning about another woman, adjusting to living alone again.  Yet, once he was gone, I continued talking and texting with him.  Part of it was that I missed him.  Even though things were not good with us for a while and his alcoholism had taken over, I still truly loved him and we were together for almost nine years.  But the other part of it was that I felt a sense of responsibility for him and I was invested in his health and his recovery process.  Looking back on it, I probably should have cut off or limited our communication when he left.  I realize now that all I was doing was continuing to dwell in the trauma of what happened.  As long as I focused on him, I did not have to address my own feelings of sadness and anger and loneliness. I assumed as long as he was 750 miles away, it was “safe” to continue talking to him.

He just told me a couple of days ago that he is already coming back this week and rented an apartment about two miles from my house.  I am anxious about this for so many different reasons.  Obviously, I feel like he made this decision with me in mind.  I have not given him any false hope that we will be together again.  In fact, I have expressed my concerns that he hasn’t done anything related to recovery since he left the hospital and it is too soon for him to come back and to live alone.  I am nervous and paranoid that I am going to run into him every time I leave my house.  That is not a comfortable feeling for someone who suffers from anxiety.

I thought about it overnight and called him back and told him that we need to stop communicating.  He needs to focus on himself and I need to start focusing on myself and dealing with everything that happened.  The key word is “need”.  I keep trying to make him understand that this is what I truly NEED.  Of course I WANT to support him and help him and be there for him and even spend time with him…but I know if that happens, I will get sucked back into his problems and continue to enable him.  He basically told me that he understands what I am telling him, but that he doesn’t know if he can not speak to me or have me be a part of his life.  I realized I have to be much more firm and told him that if he does not give me the space I NEED, that I will end up resenting him.  The more he tries to force and push himself into my life, the more I feel scared and anxious. He just does not seem to be accepting the fact that our relationship is over.  It is not what I wanted…I never wanted ANY of this.  But I know, without a doubt, that I have to put myself first and that I am not ready to forgive him for the way he hurt me and affected our relationship.  I cannot revolve my life around his recovery journey.  Our relationship has been about him for so long.  I just need space and time to figure things out for myself and work through everything that happened.  I just wish I didn’t have to do that with him living down the street.

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Withdrawing

26. That’s how many days I went to the hospital to be with you. 26 days where I put you and your medical needs first. Not only because I love you, but because it was the right thing to do. For 26 days I knew in the back of my mind that eventually I was going to have to tell you our relationship was over. I dreaded the day, felt immeasurable guilt. Why? I didn’t lie. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t ruin our relationship. That was all you. But I was so scared of hurting you, of how our break up would go. I ran through every possible scenario in my mind, drafted what I wanted to say, tried to predict your reaction. As the day got closer, my anxiety built. I didn’t WANT to do it. I didn’t want to let you go. I wanted to keep supporting you, helping you, touching you, loving you. I never wanted any of this.

With all the preparations I made, I never expected the response you had. I sat, crying, pouring my heart out, asking questions, telling you how hurt I was. You sat in silence, looking at the TV and sometimes your phone. You only said you were sorry when I asked you to apologize. You only said you loved me when I said it first. I hugged you goodbye, expecting some emotion (from you…I was sobbing). There was none. I pressed my face against your neck, my cheek rubbing your central line, I left tear stains on your gown. I never wanted to let go. Your reaction hurt so bad- it was another piece of my heart broken. It felt like you just dismissed me, didn’t even want me there, didn’t want to look at me. When you were in the coma, I kissed you 100 times, held you hand for hours, told you I loved you over and over. I never knew when would be the last time. I didn’t know a heart could break more than once, but mine broke over and over throughout those 26 days. I only went food shopping once and saw the blue Powerade you like and had to leave the store.

Afterwards, I spoke with your father. He told me (not in a mean way) that I had had a month to adjust to things and you were just finding it all out. I told him respectfully that simply wasn’t true. For 26 days, I put all of my emotions- sadness, anger, betrayal- aside and focused 100 percent on your recovery. At night I would sleep in the guest room bed and was so overwhelmed and exhausted from the day, I would not even be able to process thoughts. My mind was in a constant fog. I would talk and not make sense. I would order food at the hospital cafe and zone out and someone would have to snap me out of it by nudging me.

It’s been two days since I told you I knew everything and it feels like I’m just starting to deal with it. Not seeing you for two days has been so difficult. I want to be there with you. I’m back at work just to distract myself, but all I think about is you. Everyone keeps saying I need to focus on myself. I know that’s true, but I don’t even know how to start. I guess time heals all wounds, but I feel like this is just something that will fester inside of me forever. I knew if you didn’t stop drinking, our relationship was going to inevitably end. I just can’t believe you almost died and it had to get to the point it did. I’m trying to step back from the whole thing, give up control, let your parents take over. It’s so hard because I still want to take care of you. I realize now how codependent I became in our relationship. I know I have to move on. I know I have to relinquish the responsibility I feel for you. I know I need to allow myself to go through the grieving process of our breakup. I know I need to deal with the trauma of seeing you in a coma and you almost dying.

But I just don’t know how to let you go…

You may never know…

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My love,

It’s been ten days that you have been in a coma.  Ten days that I haven’t heard your voice, that we haven’t slept together in our bed.  Ten days that I have had a broken heart with so many unanswered questions.  The doctors keep telling me YOU won’t remember this.  I am glad for that, there has been so much suffering.  However, I will not ever forget this and it has changed me permanently and forever.

Let me start from the beginning.  I knew since you got laid off, you have been drinking more.  I know you gave yourself permission to do so and I really tried to understand how hard it was for you.  I also knew the problems you have had with alcohol that have affected our relationship were going on far before you lost your job.  I gave you time.  I tried to give you space.  Finally, it became too much for me.  I never knew what I was coming home to…would you be drunk? sleeping all day? going to a meeting? I was scared to come home, anxious all the time.

Once I told you I couldn’t do it anymore, you made more promises.  I asked you about rehab.  You said no.  You could do it on your own.  I told you that you couldn’t.  You said you would go to more meetings.  I know you wanted to stop, I believed you, I believed IN you.  You did start going to more meetings.  I encouraged them and the relationships you created there.  I felt the more sober people in your network, the better.  You had met Mary and she became your unofficial sponsor.  You would pick her up and take her to meetings.  I thought that was a good thing- it gave you someone else to be responsible for getting to them.

I know you were drunk Tuesday, but I do believe you that you stopped on Wednesday.  But you started acting so strangely- you were disoriented, shaking.  I told you it was withdrawal.  You said no, something else had to be wrong.  You had a physical appointment on Friday.  I was so relieved you were finally going to the doctor for a check up.

Friday, 8th period. I got a call from the doctor’s office.  I stepped out of my classroom to answer it.  They said you were VERY ill and that they tried to convince you to go to the emergency room in an ambulance.  You pushed the doctor out of the way and ran out of the office barefoot.  I panicked.  I called you and you answered as if nothing was wrong. I told you if you didn’t go to the emergency room, we were finished forever.  You finally agreed, reluctantly.

When we got to the ER, you were confused, sweating, couldn’t follow directions.  They right away knew it was withdrawal.  You told the doctor you drank up to two pints of vodka a day.  You told him you would try to drink in the morning and vomit.  How did I not know how bad it was? Was I in denial? Did I not want to know? Were you just that good of a liar?  You started to become incoherent.  You began hallucinating.  I was so scared.

They got you admitted into a room.  They said it would be a couple of days and they would help you go through withdrawal safely.  At first you did not want to stay, thank god you did.  Within an hour, you were trying to pull out the IVs they put in your arms.  You were talking and making no sense.  An alarm would go off in the hospital and you thought you were at a high school sports game.  Once in a while you would seem normal, but then the hallucinations would begin again.  They tried to get you to stop touching your IVs, you started to shake uncontrollably and the nurse yelled you were having a seizure.  The rapid response team was called and within minutes 15 nurses and doctors were crammed into your small hospital room.  In the hall, I watched with disbelief that this was happening.  I was so terrified.

They rushed you to ICU, just down the hall.  I ran after you, but the doctor said to wait in the waiting room.  Thankfully, your best friend was there and my sister was about to arrive. I felt so helpless.  The doctor finally called me out into the hall.  He said they gauge alcohol withdrawal on a scale called CIWA.  6 is uncomfortable, 12 needs medical attention, 20 can be life threatening.  You were a 45.  The doctor looked at me and said that I saved your life.  I broke down.  He said you would have most likely had a major seizure if they didn’t start you on the medications when they did.  Then, we heard security being paged and guards running to your room.  You had to be strapped down, restrained so they could put the IVs in to save your life.  The doctor said he would be back to talk to us.

He did.  He said they put you in a medically induced coma.  No other patient had ever needed more sedatives before.  The inserted a breathing tube and you were on a ventilator.  Life support one doctor called it.  The first time I saw you strapped down with all of those machines, my heart broke into 100 pieces.  I couldn’t stop crying, we called your parents.  At first it didn’t seem like they were going to come.  I wanted to scream, “YOUR SON IS IN A COMA”. I let your friend talk to them.  They said they would “decide” in the morning.

I sat next to you and cried and cried.  How could it have gotten this bad? We were supposed to go to the mall and get dinner.  How could you be in a coma?  Finally, after being at the hospital for nine hours, the nurses told us to all go home.  You were sedated and I had to come home and take care of the dog.  You had accidentally left her outside.  You’ve never done that before.

At 1 am, I got into the guest room bed.  I couldn’t sleep without you in our bed.  I still haven’t.  I took your phone to look up some phone numbers of people to contact in the morning.  The first person I though of was Mary.  You two had become so close and she was such a support system for you, almost like a mother figure, considering she was almost 20 years older than you.

NOTHING could have prepared me for the texts I saw.  I read them over and over.  I felt like vomiting.  I was shaking so hard, I could hardly hold the phone.  I called my sister and read them all to her.  She said she was going to be sick.  I kept saying, “how could he do this to me? how could he do this to me?” I never ever suspected you of being unfaithful.  I never doubted you.  I trusted you with every fiber of my being.  I thought we were in love, even with the problems we have been having.  I devoted almost 10 years of my life to our relationship.  Besides all of the very sexually explicit texts, you told her SHE was the reason you were staying sober (which you weren’t), that SHE was the most interesting person you ever met, that HER support was helping you, that you thought about her A LOT.  I felt my already broken heart splinter into 1,000 more pieces.  I felt like a fool.  I encouraged you to see her, thinking she was helping you.  You told me Wednesday night you would go to a meeting with her and then come get in bed with me.  You never did- you slept in the basement.  How could I have been so blind.  I was texting you that I loved you and believed in you and on the same day you were texting her about wanting to fuck her.  I will never know if you did.  It doesn’t even matter.

The next morning I went to see you in the hospital with my sister.  I kissed you 20 times.  I held your hand for an hour.  I told you I loved you over and over and over. I cried and cried and cried.  I left the hospital and went directly to a storage unit and rented one.  By the end of the day Saturday, all of your belongings were in it.  While taking your furniture out of the basement, we found 21 pints of vodka.  I told your parents the truth.  That regardless of what happened to you in the hospital, you no longer lived with me.  Part of that was pure betrayal and if you were not sick, our relationship would have ended anyway due to your infidelity.  The other, bigger, part was that I could not have you come back here and act like you didn’t almost die and just continue drinking.  I did it for me, but for you too.  Rehab had to be the only option.

For the past ten days, I have woken up and gone to the hospital.  I have kissed your face next to your breathing tube.  I have held your hand, still bound to the bed.  When you have opened your eyes, I have reassured you I am there and I love you.  I hung up a collage of pictures of the dog and our nieces and nephew.  I made a playlist on my phone of your favorite songs and I sit next to you and play them.  When your parents arrived, I still was the one who had to tell the doctors everything about you.  In some ways, I know you inside and out.  In other ways, I feel like you have lied about everything. I spoke with your therapist and meeting facilitator, both of whom thought you were maintaining sobriety with “occasional” relapses.  You even lied to them.  You must have been lying to yourself.  I did your unemployment paperwork, your COBRA, paid your bills.  You will probably never even know these things.  I have done everything I can to help you and support you and love you and take care of you during this time.

I get home late at night and I get in bed and I read, over and over, the text messages you sent to her.  I cry myself to sleep, wiping my eyes on your sweatshirt.  I sleep with your deodorant open on the pillow next to me to smell you.  I feel so alone.

But then the next day I wake up, and I go to the hospital and do it all again.  The nurses tell me I am strong.  They are shocked at your parent’s disconnect.  You will most likely never know, or believe, how truly and deeply I love you.  You are still in a coma, there have been a lot of setbacks.  Your kidneys weren’t working, to the point they were talking about dialysis.  You had a 103 fever for 60 hours.  You have pneumonia and two other infections.  I thought at one point you would die.  I agonize over the last thing I said to you.  Did we sleep together on Thursday night?  Did I kiss you goodbye when I left for work on Friday?

I took FMLA at work- I have missed more day of school in these two weeks than I did the whole school year last year.  Your dad introduced me at first as your girlfriend to each new doctor who came in to see you.  I was the only one who could answer their questions about your history and your health.  By midweek, he casually nodded towards me and said we “live together”…I was downgraded to just being your roommate.  Today, he didn’t even bother to even introduce me.  I sat on the couch by myself, huddled in the corner, feeling like I didn’t belong there.  But I refuse to leave.  I don’t care how awkward it is.  While you are in the coma, you still feel like mine.  Once you wake up, everything is going to change.  I don’t know how you will react.  I don’t know if you will agree to rehab or if you will refuse.  Your parents want you to go down by them.  My body physically aches when I think of what you will go through and knowing I will most likely not be a part of it.

I feel like I have lost so much.  Sometimes I am so angry, other times I feel so sad it’s overwhelming.  I have lost weight because I can’t eat.  I do laundry and organize closets at 3 am because I can’t sleep.  My friends and family and coworkers and students have all been so incredibly supportive.  I appreciate it more than I will ever be able to express to them.

But right now, all I want is you,

and I will always love you,

and you may never know any of this.