The mask of the uncomfortable nothingness
By Shawna Percy on December 18, 2011
The uncomfortable nothingness. It’s a feeling I get sometimes. I know in my core it is not the true feeling. It is a mask hovering over the true emotions that are lurking beneath the surface.
The nothingness is uncomfortable for that reason only. I can not trust it. I know some surprise emotion will show itself sooner or later. But in the meantime I wait.
I also appreciate it because I feel it is my body and mind’s emotional shield. Subconsciously it knows what I can handle and what I can not.
I visited a Homeopath the other day and told her that I have been having chest pains. It’s a funny thing really because I use to get chest pains as a child, but then they went away. I thought about the timeline and realized they had been gone for as long as I had been married. That struck me as odd since my marriage was stress immersed. Why, now that I was removed from that situation, would the pains be coming back?
I think it has to do with coming down off of auto-pilot. Looking at my past my auto-pilot kicked in when I should otherwise have been in crisis myself. As the intense situations of my life petered out my ability to cope would deteriorate.
I thought back to the times when my husband would start falling into a mental episode. Unless one knew me during these times they might not believe how incredibly strong I was considering the circumstances. During those times when my husband would enter crisis my auto pilot would kick into high gear. It was an incredible coping mechanism to experience first hand. Kind of like having super powers. The worse the situation the more energy I seemed to have to get through it. Then during his months of recovery as he would begin to get stronger I would start to breakdown.
The day the police told me my husband had died, after the initial shock of the news, I felt relief. I felt relief for weeks. Relief that he would no longer be tormented by his own mind sabotaging his well-being. Relief that I would never get another phone call from him or the police telling me that another episode had begun. Relief that there was closure to his pain and my continual living in anticipation of the next time I would have to drop everything and focus on how we would make it through the present crisis.
And I thought this feeling of relief was here to stay. I thought that I had already grieved so many losses in our marriage there was nothing left to let go of. The news of his death, although it shook me to my core, was not a complete surprise. The possibility of his death was something I lived with day after day.
Then the mask of the uncomfortable nothingness came over me. I remember exactly where I was. Driving by my local conservation area. I felt a numbness, like at the dentists office where I can still feel the dentist doing work on my teeth, but the feeling is just pressure. There’s no actual pain. Although numb I could feel there was an undercurrent…of something…and the weird thing was that I didn’t fear it. In fact I felt it was probably good. But I couldn’t identify it.
Shortly after a good friend said to me, “Maybe you need to deal with the trauma before you can get to the grief.”
I was sure he was wrong, but I willed myself to a counselors office anyway. Three things happened there that proved him right.
1) When I told my counselor, the same counselor who had worked with Neil and I for over a year, that Neil had died it gave her such a shock that her reaction to the news seemed to confirm in me that something significant really had happened. I know that would seem obvious, but I never saw my husband’s body, and there is a lacking closure with that I continue to face. My mind assumes he really has died because clues keep nudging me towards that reality, but the choice I made to not see his body has left me floating between thinking it’s really happened, and wondering if it really did.
2) As I began to tell the counselor the pieces of our story from the weeks leading up to his death I released my raw emotions onto her listening ears and the numbness began to go away. It struck me that the uncomfortable undercurrent was my uneasy sense of calm. We had lived in chaos and perpetual fear of relapses and repercussions for 5 years, and in an instant the threat of trauma in our marriage was gone. Poof. Smoke. Gone….and life was suddenly…calm.
3) As the muddy ick of living under heavy bondage was lifted, some of the trauma had been released, and the grief began to trickle in.
I left that counselor’s office and went home. I had not wanted to go through my husband’s belongings until that point, and suddenly that’s all I wanted to do. The further I was removed from the threat of our situation, the more clearly I could see his humanity, and feel compassion for him.
I went through his belongings, I held his box of ashes, and I wept.
I don’t know what it was about his shoes, these smelly old beat up black shoes, but I looked at them and I wept. Maybe it was the knowing that, good or bad, neither he, nor anyone in the world would ever again be able to fill them. There was only one of him ever created in all of time, and now he was gone.
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