I don’t understand

7/10/16     11:12pm

Friends” on the tv. Ellie asleep on the couch next to me. Phone dinging intermittently…

I don’t understand. I don’t understand.

Yesterday I was unable to move or get out of bed until after 5pm. Zoe laid with me. I tried to write. I did get up one time. When my mom came home I tried to keep it from her as best I could. All my energy I used to get to the bathroom and take a shower with my shower chair that I promptly dried off and hid since she hates that I have it. I wanted to catch up on work all day. I guess it’s not in the plan.

Today I woke up with energy and surrounded by the Holy Spirit. God put a grieving widow next to me in church to comfort as she melted down. I ate chicken with my mom and when I came home to start working on the computer I saw a Facebook post from Chuck. My brother died today. Everything stopped. I posted a few pics and the news, then broke down sobbing. I don’t understand. I wanted to leave but there was nowhere to go. I went to my room, curled up on the floor, tried to read “Stellaluna” unsuccessfully. I couldn’t breathe. I slept all afternoon on my bed.

I don’t understand. Everyone’s dying. Last week Fatima and Ron. This Wednesday is Ron’s funeral. Today it’s Courtney. He’s my brother.

The people on Facebook say they’re sorry for my loss. I’m not sure why that phrase is so prevalent around death. I met my brother twice, dreamed of him for years. He had HD like my dad – the only one of us that got it. Mark met him with me once. All he wanted was death. I couldn’t help him. He refused treatment. And he lived far away. For awhile he called a LOT in the middle of the night. I haven’t heard from him in awhile. He crosses my mind but I haven’t called.

I called his step-dad Chuck to see what happened. “He wasted away,” he said. “The disease took it’s toll.” I don’t believe that. He said, “I’m glad he’s gone. He was miserable… He knew it was pretty close.” I guess Courtney hadn’t eaten in 2-3 weeks and refused care or hospice. He even stopped smoking, which was his thing, and going to the corner store. He laid on the floor by the door of his 5th wheel. He was constantly cold, died in a hoodie and snow jacket in the middle of summer. Chuck said he was, “gettin’ a little bit fantasy,” meaning he was talking about things that never happened like fires and earthquakes. Courtney was against medical treatment, IVs, feeding tubes, etc. There will be no service. He said, “Cremate me and throw me away.”

I don’t know what to do. My body barely moves. I really needed to work today, was looking forward to having time to catch up on life. But instead I slept, and when I think not a whole lot is there. I stare, stop moving. My world is cold.

Last week there were group crises. My level of functioning was such that I spent many hours staring. I even cried a few times. (staring…) I don’t understand.

Mom: Are you okay?
Me: No
Mom: Why are you not okay?
Me: Well, people are dying all around me, I can’t keep up with my work, my body’s trying to kill me and, consequently, I can’t think.
Mom: Well, people usually die in threes so no one else will die for awhile.

What the fuck? There is no magic voodoo number on crises. They are not limited to sets of 3.

I can’t do this. I see Dr. H in the morning. I don’t even know what to tell her. Why does it bother me so much that my brother is dead? I couldn’t help him. (stare)

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Courtney & Michelle 1/2016

© Michelle Routhieaux 2016

Breathing

the girls 201012-29-12     10:31pm

It hurts to breathe…

The air in me is hollow.

My brain laments with grief.

My head hurts. I just got home from Denny’s – a gathering of distraught friends. I took tissues & Play-Doh and ate plastic cheesecake. I am not okay.

I am not okay.

I feel God holding me, thankfully. Mom’s on the phone with Don. I don’t care. I am stoic with small bouts of tears. I need to talk to someone who’s not in it. I need to let go.

I hear “I Need You Now” by Plumb.

Armando said I look very calm. I’m about to implode. All my cells are on high alert. My head hurts. I don’t move much. I’m not hungry. I stare. I can’t tolerate noise or stress. I just want to be.

I was the last person who saw Janet. I shared her last meal. I had that privilege. And I am in pain. And all the questions are coming up. The what did she say and why didn’t you see the signs and did you knows. I didn’t do anything wrong.

I can still feel her hug.

How many times have you heard me cry out?
How many times have You given me strength?

I made arrangements. Let everyone know. Am answering texts night and day. Planning a memorial. Secured a minister. Set up a therapy group. Sat with Chrissy. Breathed.

It hurts to breathe.
It hurts to be.

I took a shower today.
This is how I deal with crisis.
I shut down. It is absorbed into my body, the fabric of my being and it doesn’t exist. I cry alone. I sing. I breathe.

Janet is dead.
It hurts to breathe.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

Janet was my friend

12/29/12     5pm

Dear Jesus,

I don’t know if she believed or not, but I like to believe that Janet is in your arms today. Please bring her all the comfort and peace that she couldn’t find here and introduce her to joy. Thank you for the time you gave me with her. She is an amazing friend. Please be with Chrissy as she deals with this trauma and help me to provide comfort and support to the group. Give me strength to hold everyone up, to maintain my link. Thank you for giving me the resources and fortitude to do this. Thank you for hope.

In your name I pray, Amen.

Janet 2010

Janet hung herself.
I’m going to the donut shop now.
To be with Joe & Chrissy.
(pause)
Janet was my friend.

Chrissy found her.
Janet was my friend.
I saw her on Wednesday. We worked, talked, had dinner.
I knew she was bad.
I didn’t know how close.

Was the cleaning up all part of the plan?
I doubt it.

She hung herself in the bathroom.
The bathroom we just worked on.
With the flowered rug.
And the Tinkerbell towels.

Janet was my friend.

We went to Noodles & Company after.
She bought me food. We talked.
She laughed.

I met Janet in 2004 in Henry’s group when she was living with her family in Borrego and getting ECT. She was a wreck, but she helped me. She would walk me through guided imagery. We talked on the phone hours a day. She jumped out of a car on the freeway, ran away. Her parents screamed at me. So much drama. But she was my friend.

I couldn’t tolerate her anymore and was glad she disappeared. I hadn’t seen her in years when she showed up at DBSA. I heard of a Janet and prayed it wasn’t her, but it was. I was scared it would be the same drama with her parents and Fidaleo and 17 drugs. But it wasn’t. She was different.

The crippling depression Janet experienced while at DBSA was a vast improvement from when I met her. She had skills, sometimes hope, and a desire for a good life. She lived on her own or with a roommate, drove a car, fed her cats. Those cats were her family, her reasons for living. And the whole month of Halloween.

Janet was a broken little girl living the devil’s fairy tale. With a body that wouldn’t die. But I guess enough is enough sometimes. Her body & mind were weary. It was time to let go.

I can’t imagine her believing it would work. One last try out of desperation. Care for the cats and care for myself. I don’t blame her. She endured years of torture, loneliness and pain. The people she wanted love from the most were mean to her. She had nothing left in the reserve. No doctor, dwindling meds, persistent severe depression. She had her note cards and her kitties and her best friend. She fought the good fight and now it’s over.

Janet was my friend.

I find myself grappling now with the what if and why questions. The words that have no answers. The words that need no response.

I’m going to the donut shop.
Janet was my friend.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

Fathers are people

4/4/12     11:55pm

What does it mean about me that I keep the only framed picture of my dad under a stack of pajamas in a dresser I never open? I just rediscovered it quite by accident. I can’t breathe.

SHAME. What does that mean about me? (crying)

The man never did anything to me. He’s been dead over 10 years. And I hide his picture. There are no pictures in my house, of anyone. Just empty picture frames. In the picture my dad looks happy, healthy. Half-smiling with his siblings. I just wanna hug him. Please, God. Please… Send him back to me. Like last year at jazz. I hear him. Not him healthy. But him.

The picture is of -, Dad, # & Danny. – doesn’t talk to me. Dad is dead. Danny killed himself. And I don’t know how to contact #. She doesn’t seem to hate me. I hated that picture because – sent it to me. But it’s special. The only pic I have of my dad healthy.

I wish he wasn’t a secret. That I could’ve shared my life with him instead of lying. Everything. Fathers are people not secrets. So are daughters. I didn’t want my mom to see the picture so I hid it. Guilt. Shame. Longing.

He’s not real. GET THAT AWAY FROM ME. (pause) Let me be. Please, I don’t want him to see me. I love you, Dad. Back in the drawer now.

I should plaster my walls with pictures. Start making life real.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2012

Tree Seasons

1-2-11     2:52pm

There are 3 trees and a daisy bush that I watch from my back stoop. They teach me about life. (pause)

I’ve been watching them lose their leaves and wondering what they must be thinking.

Why are you leaving me?
Oh my God, what’s happening?!
No! No! Please! That one is my favorite!
He’s my best friend!
I’m cold.
Why isn’t anyone helping me?

Then humans come in and cut off branches completely out of their control and haul off their leaves on the ground.

It’s much like our lives. And it happens in seasons. But do they know? Do they understand? Is the tree freaked out by this major loss or does it understand what is happening, why? Is there an innate acceptance that this is what is and any attempts to stop it are futile?

Each of the trees is in a different stage of unleafing. I wonder if they compare themselves to one another and feel jealous or proud.

Why does HE still have leaves?
Haha! Sucker. I have more than YOU do.
You all lose. I’m leafless first.

What do they think of the nonshedding trees? Is there grief over the loss? It got me thinking about the cycle of grief.

Life has cycles, like trees, but not Kubler-Ross’s five cycles. I believe there are four, matched to the seasons. Love (summer), Loss (fall), Grief (winter), and Acceptance (spring). They can change at any time for any reason but in my life they tend to go in this order.

Love (intense feeling) could be a person, a project, an idea or ideal. Loss (involuntary action) is its fall from dream-state, it’s emerging reality of flaws or its actual loss. Grief (reaction) is the processing of loss, reaction to a lack of control, and reassessment of who we are without this and why we are still here. And Acceptance is the freedom to move on openly knowing we will lose again but embracing the moment anyway.

Some days I look in the mirror and am surprised at my leaf count. I thought there were 3 left. I was sure of it. But today they are gone. And it’s cold. And the daisy bush is dead. I know just on the outside but that is all I see.

What are your tree seasons?

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© Michelle Routhieaux 2011

Dear Daddy (Nov 2003)

written on the 2nd anniversary of my dad’s death, posted now for Jingle’s Poetry Potluck (and because I’ve been thinking about it).

Dear Daddy,

Need me.
Feed me, the way I fed you.
Comb my hair.
Don’t tear.
DON’T TOUCH ME

Where did you go?
I don’t know.
I NEVER KNOW
And for as much as I’d like to I can’t, pray I never will.

The bruises, restraints, overpowering drugs.
The anger
The incredible loneliness.
Talk to me Daddy.
Be one of the voices in my head.

Why did you hit me that day?
Why didn’t you stay on that mountain?
GET OUT OF MY LIFE – hold me tight
If you could come back and do it again, would you?
Would you call me your child?
Why in the sky do the clouds always shroud the image of your body from my wandering eyes?

© Michelle Routhieaux 11/17/03

The Candle

I went to Survivors of Suicide Loss Day this weekend and everyone lit a candle in memory of their loved one(s). While the conference itself was great, it was the candle that moved me.

As I stared at it I felt & thought many things.

The Candle

5-22-10                 11:31am

  • Guilt – I’m supposed to do something to save it but I don’t want to.
  • Fear – doing something to help it will hurt me or draw attention to me.
  • Helpless – there is nothing I can do to affect the time this candle burns, what I do won’t matter, won’t make a difference.
  • Hopeless – It’s not my place
  • Life – As I watched I noticed a brown speck near the wick just twirling, a sign of life.
  • The Pain of Waiting – I don’t know when but I can’t stop it. I just wait. Like D- and the bus stop. I just want it to stop. I want to blow out the candle. Just make it stop. Please.

I’ve noticed no one else at my table is watching the candle.

When it was lit, I didn’t pay attention. As it burned, I didn’t watch. But I noticed when the white candle was completely clear. Now there’s nothing I can do but watch. If only I had noticed. There’s nothing I can do. This candle is going to kill me.

I want to protect the candle. Fear of someone blowing it out. Wondering if that would be more therapeutic.

I don’t want to eat lunch. I don’t want to leave it.

People eat lunch and talk.

I just watch…

I miss my dad…

I’m tempted to ask how long these candles burn. But no one can know.

I’m angry I can’t change it.

Didn’t want to leave but had a good conversation.

Automatic Thought – I shouldn’t be here.

Angry. Damn it! Go out candle.

Angry – my perspective is so different. I shouldn’t be here.

I forgot & went back to blow out the candle. The effect. And I walked away.

I know the people around me did not experience this candle as I did. But it was so powerful. To go through so many emotions and stages of trauma and grief in such a short time with a candle is amazing. It’s powerful and difficult but good. Thank God for the candle.

© Michelle Routhieaux 2010