Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is This Really Happening?

"Is this really happening to us?" In the beginning I asked myself that question countless times over the course of a day. And when the early days slipped into the "middle of the mess days", I was still asking myself that question, "Is this really happening to us?" I realize the question was redundant and the answer was always the same, (clear and quite reliable),  "Yes, this is really happening".  But I couldn't believe it so I continued asking this question holding out for hope that at some point the answer would be different.  In my warped sense of reality I truly thought that maybe the universe had confused us with somebody else.  But the universe didn't have us confused with anyone else. It was me who was confused. 

Although I was FULLY AWARE of what was happening in our lives, I was having a very difficult time ACCEPTING our new state of being. My refusal to accept this new reality kept me in a state of panic for the first few years of our ordeal and served no other purpose than to paralyze me which kept me in a constant state of fear, confusion and inertia which led me into the trap of normalizing our situation.  I didn't want to believe that life as we knew it was over. We had built a wonderful life and although our family wasn't perfect, it was our very own. We were connected to each other for better or for worse. My son had always adored his father and had thought him to be a man of substance.  But now he only sees his father as a man who has failed himself and his family and he is devastated.  We were connected to dear friends and to a community. We belonged somewhere.  There is a sense of purpose and safety in belonging somewhere and standing on solid ground. But we don't belong anywhere anymore and even on our best days the ground is constantly shifting under our feet. We have lost our sense of identity. We are broken. This "THING" has taken over our lives and it has taken me a very long time to accept this.  We can never go back. We can only keep trying to move forward.

Pushing away your own reality is a dysfunctional coping mechanism that serves no other purpose other than to postpone the inevitable.  Denying a diagnosis of a serious illness doesn't make it go away. Accepting it and seeking treatment can mean the difference between life and death. Fully accepting what has happened to your life and being proactive is the key in being a "surviving spouse" of white collar crime.  

Fully accepting the truth means that you have to do something about your situation. In waiting so long to finally accept that my life as I knew it was over I allowed panic and worry to become my two most reliable companions. They were there for me every waking moment. They understood me and knew how broken I was without me having to explain it to them.  And when they went away for a bit I could always summon them back and without hesitation or qualification they'd be there for me again, no questions asked.  I could count on them and even came to depend on them for comfort. They gave me permission to be victimized.  They allowed me to become depressed and even suicidal. They allowed me, without judgement, to make unwise decisions. There's a huge difference between knowing something terrible in your life has happened and accepting the facts as they are. Knowing simply means that you are aware. Acceptance  means that you do something constructive about it. You didn't cause the mess you and your family are in but it's now up to you to do something about it.

In those early days I could see that life was going on AROUND me but I didn't feel any connection to it.  I went through the motions of living but I felt like the walking dead. I decided to normalize our situation as best I could so that "the others" wouldn't know of our plight and so that my son had some semblance that things weren't as bad as they were. I couldn't make new friends because I didn't want to be pitied, or worse, judged.  So I went through the motions of having a "normal" life. I got my son up for school and attended his sporting events. Helped him with homework, walked the dog and chatted with neighbors like a "normal" person. I paid bills, made grocery runs, held down the fort and waited for the sun to go down so that I could hang out with my two best buddies, Panic and Worry. In the early days I thought staying on top of my daily to do list meant that I was moving forward. In time I realized that doing these things wasn't moving forward at all. Rather, they were just part of surviving. 

Accepting "what is" sooner rather than later can make all the difference between merely surviving and actually moving forward. If I knew then what I know now I would have done things very differently and I wouldn't be where I am now. Let my experience serve as a cautionary tale.  Do as I say, not as I did and you will come through these dark days stronger and much more productive than I was. With acceptance comes action. Denial leads to inertia and that can only hold you back. Work EACH DAY on setting up your foundation and before you know it, you'll be standing on solid ground. Accept what has happened and who you are now. Don't look down. Keep looking forward.  And above all else, don't allow this terrible situation you are in define you.

You are not alone.