Posts Tagged ‘death and dying’

**frank talk about my head horrors. also, assume I’m okay with my therapists and their opinions and I’m confident it’s the right choice.**

EMDR has not been a roaring success. Or maybe it has. On my second visit, we tried using two handheld vibrating eggs (which I had trouble not equating to questionable sex toys) and headphones. The eggs buzzed alternately in time with an unpleasant chime in alternating ears. The chimes made me think of ambulances in foreign countries which made me think of hospitals in foreign countries (my experience being limited to two other countries, to be fair), which made me think of hallways in all hospitals, which made me think of dying people in hospitals, and from there it was an easy jump to code whatever color, morgues, and a capital letter Panic Attack.

I took off the headphones, tried again, and shortly after completely crumpled. I thought it was pretty intense but assumed that was me being trapped in my brain until one therapist talked to the other (I KNOW, TWO) and recommended stopping in favor of a gentler approach less likely to cause a total mental break. They called it something else probably, but it sounded like that, and it’s scary as fuck to think that I can’t even trust my own brain to cooperate.

That said, I suddenly spend less time spontaneously seeing decaying corpses in front of me at meetings, on the sidewalk, at the dinner table, next to me in bed. And, as I reflect, it seems that probably wasn’t normal. At least, not as many as three times an hour, which adds up to approximately 42 visits to a crowded, un-airconditioned, steaming hot, third world morgue each day. I suppose that COULD break a person. I’m down to a dozen or so, of a more general dead body sort. I get to see my yellow-grey father at least twice a day of course, not exactly the way I’d choose to remember him; more than a few random bodies on the side of the road; and, the cool, sterile, final-ness of a CSI morgue which, given the alternative, is a gold star imagination path.

Maybe it’s because we’ve had the memorial for my dad. I wasn’t particularly attached to his ashes (after all, he and I spend a lot of unpleasant time together every day) but I have been hopeful that this will give my mom a place to move forward from and provide some closure for my sisters. I’m sure on a subconscious level the end of the dying process had an impact. At the third EMDR appointment, we skipped the vibrating eggs (ha) again (see above concern about breakage) and talked in depth about what continuing could mean and the alternatives. I’m pretty sure trying again is the right decision and she feels confident that I have the skills to “keep myself safe” which sounds flaky but makes sense in the sense that I have a stockpile of tools to physically reground myself in the present and not end up lost among the flies which *can* happen but isn’t likely in her super lovely office.

I’m worried though. Worried that my wife secretly thinks I’m a disaster. Or worse, that she’s afraid of me. At best, I hope it’s only that she wishes I’d dealt with this sooner or that she hadn’t married me. She did it twice though, so she’s pretty much lost her opportunity to complain. I worry she doesn’t understand that the reason I’m telling more stories about the good times (when I can remember them) is because I’m trying to repair all the broken places. I’m afraid she’ll think I’m stuck in the past or making something out of nothing. I’m worried she goes to sleep at night wondering when I’ll wake her up with a nightmare next. I’m worried she thinks this foever will be a weight around our collective necks.

I’m also worried about myself. What happens when my wife and I are doing something more…well, you know…and I get an unwelcome and unrelated memory? Are my personal tastes in that area because I need intensity to rule out any other thoughts? And is that bad? And does that keep us from connecting frequently, because what I want is not what she wants? I suppose I could leverage my not inconsiderable time in therapy to address this but it’s embarrassing and I never remember to think this clearly (well, it’s clear to me) in the office.

Turns out I have about four more paragraphs of anxieties, none of which are the actual trauma on repeat in my brain, all of which relate to my wife, my work, and my relationships. I feel ridiculous for spelling them out, so I won’t go further. Here’s hoping that it was the EMDR, as the therapist suggests, and that a second attempt will keep helping.


If you’re here from Counting Chickens, welcome (or welcome back) and know that these posts are more about death and dying than life and love. Or maybe it’s both.

I’m the one who cleaned out your hospice room. I took down each photo carefully, saying names aloud like a litany. Your two brothers, both silver haired and older than you are. Your best friend, clad in denim and plaid, standing next to you against a desert cliff. You were smiling at me, watching me aim your old 36 millimeter, getting the focus just right. Your youngest and her family; her husband, their white-blond three year old, and brand new infant. I know you remember the day this one was taken, you with your arm slung over mom’s shoulders, settled deep into a couch in the 1980s. She looks happy here, dad. Like she hasn’t been in awhile. This one’s of me. I miss you dad, so so much. And here is my other sister, sunglasses and a hat at your old house in Wyoming. Your grandkids, here and here, and here. And RR, of course, she loves you so much. I take them down one at a time, fold up the ones in frames, tuck them into a canvas bag to take home.

Moving to your few possessions, I name the things I touch. Mom won’t want this blanket for a few days, I’ll put it in my bag. We ate almost all those jellybeans, didn’t we? I’ll leave your comb here and put your toothbrush with your phone and slippers. These are pretty flowers, dad, but you wouldn’t have liked their scent. I unstick my daughter’s drawings, folding her artwork into the trash, along with the hospice literature that helpfully told us what to expect while you died in front of our eyes.

I’m keeping my back to you and I feel ashamed for doing it. I’m a coward for not looking into your face again, taking your hand, and telling you I love you. In my defense, I don’t believe you are here, but that doesn’t stop me from talking to you. My hands are deliberate and steady even though I’m quivering inside and out. I tell you how I’m feeling, and I notice that my voice is higher, but quiet, with a definite shake, words strung end to end. I’m going to miss you dad. It’s too soon but I’m so glad you’re done. It was time to stop fighting.

I’ll just put the rest of your things here. And, well, dad, it looks like that’s everything. Not much was there? But so much.