Imagine sitting in a coffee shop in the middle of a plaza, tip-tapping away on a laptop; you’re trying to finish as much homework as possible before work. It’s hard to focus because the stress of tomorrow’s troubles lingers atop of todays’, so it’s time for a breath of fresh air. Outside, the atmosphere is full of sunshine, five languages, the smell of peonies, and love.
As you stride among the shops, your eyes browse the architecture, clothing, people and their dogs- one persons’ face catches your attention. It’s your life-long friend whom you haven’t seen since this time last year. A pang of anxiety tells you to duck and run, but you know better. You’ve become better.
Catching up with your friend felt like an exhausting journey but you feel reborn after. When you return to your laptop, undaunted passion and focus begins flowing from your fingertips. You complete all due assignments. And you’re reminded to be thankful for the little things.
I suppose “the little things” is seen as a generic and ineffective term to most but I believe it resonates deeply in those who have experienced grief. Like I’ve said before, I haven’t actually experienced a persons’ death- but have many other types of loss, instead. And actually, if you could please give your word to not disclose anything you read here, we can begin this journey. I like living as a rumored, yet undiscovered treasure- which is what each one of us is anyways. Now, sonder is a new term that’s not officially accepted in dictionaries yet, but a Tumblr blog defines it as; “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own” (2013.)
I was shy and awkward as a kid. I didn’t connect with people easily and it didn’t help that my family were the black sheep in my very rural, country hometown. We dyed our hair, pierced things, wore weird clothing. Animals approached us before locals did. I would chase bunny rabbits and bring home stray animals. Eventually, my mom started volunteering for ASPCA so these strays would have someplace to go. We built a house-like shelter in our backyard and I would be the one to clean or feed them! We did have our own pets, though, too. I think I was in fifth grade when my kitty, Gracie, died. She was a grey, long-haired dwarf- very cute but we irresponsibly let her breed her with a bigger cat. The kittens were too big that when she was giving birth, the first one more-or-less ripped her open. I saw it happening, ran out of the room to get my mom to help, but I couldn’t articulate my feelings into words. We brought her to a pet hospital in Tucson but she ended up dying that same night. Being alienated from my peers at a young age meant I was usually alone; animals gave me comfort but this specific pet gave me a reason to get up in the morning and come home from school. So this loss was honestly very hard on me. Today, I am still an avid animal-lover. I find relief from my recently-developed anxiety when snuggling with a good dog. Animals have become a legitimate resource in the rehabilitation field because of their viable support to people with emotional/physical handicaps. Trained animals, like cats and dogs, help people cope with physical tasks, depression, PTSD, autism, and other disorders.2 Sometimes I miss Gracie, but I find love in the millions of other animals out there looking for someone to comfort them.
So I actually grew up without a father, which I’m grateful for because it’s like that band aid was never given to me to have to rip off later in life. My mom tried dating here and there but never after I turned eleven. (My 5th grade year must have been a real weird period.) My twin and I began to drift apart from each other, as well as from our brother. I guess this would be considered my first experience with a type of human loss. My twin, Liz, physically matured a year before I did. She quickly accepted the experienced that life offered her and I image she thought that guaranteed intellectual maturity too. But I was the one to read, write, and dream. My mom viewed us as opposite as the sun and moon, and would refer to us as such. My family moved to Tucson when Liz and I were 15. Liz became affiliated with the crazier crowds while I stayed low-key. I emotionally closed myself away from her a year later when I got a job. I got a car. Then I got promoted. We would fight incessantly because she did drugs and partied and couldn’t keep a job. One time, right after we had just turned eighteen, we got into a physical fight about my success and her lack of such. It resulted in a call to the police and me moving out that summer. I haven’t seen her since. When I tell people this, they’re flabbergasted. As if I am a terrible person, or like I am missing a chunk of my being without her. Our moms’ already-hindered mental health (more on that later) took a larger toll from this, so there have been times where I wish the past didn’t unfold the way it did and I feel… guilty. I suppose that’s the struggle of losing the person I shared a womb with, but in all honesty, I am better off not knowing her anymore.
Another loss I experienced was the man I was supposed to marry. I met Miguel at a party when I was 14, I fell in love with him when I was 15. We were together for four years and he was very aware of the things happening with my family. But he was pretty much absent for 80% of our relationship because we were long-distance. I suppose I experienced a few losses during the relationship, too. Like, he had cheated on me after six months of dating and, although I grew to love him dearly, I never really trusted him. I missed both of my proms because I didn’t have anyone to go with. Hmm, but the real loss was on my part because I couldn’t bring myself to give him trust. I created a lot of fights and basically played with his emotions up until the month we were supposed to move in together. And then I just bailed… I sometimes think about him and what we could’ve been but it’s okay. Everything happens for a reason and I’ve grown so much since. Besides, being married at twenty-one sounds whack!
When I mentioned my moms’ “already-hindered mental health,” I mean that she’s diagnosed schizoaffective disorder. Medline defines this disorder as “a mental condition that causes both a loss of contact with reality and mood problems.”3 When one loses grasp on reality, it’s characterized as “a psychosis” or a psychotic episode. The “mood problems” are typically depression or bipolar mania. What happened between my sister and I affected my mom so greatly, she was manic-depressive for a long period. It wasn’t coming and going as it normally should have. But I don’t necessarily see my moms’ diagnosis as a loss because she’s been this way since before I was born. She was officially diagnosed when she learned that she was pregnant with my sister and I but our older brother, Alex, had been dealing with her symptoms for four to five years prior. It is what it is. My mom has always been there for me, though, even when it seemed she wasn’t all there, you know?
Well, we’ve reached the most important loss I’ve experienced to date. When this loss was concurrent, it was all I could think or talk about, but now that one year has almost passed since I lost myself, I’m thankful to be at peace with it all. When one goes through difficult circumstances, it’s easy to get tired of the suffering. Tired of taking 3 steps forward only to be pushed 5 steps back. The exhaustion blocks the ability to feel anything but the constant expectation of disappointment. Typically, life will nudge you over that difficult hump and things will return to normal, but what about the people who find themselves wedged underneath it? We want to say it was an accident, “it’s just life taking its toll,” but the reality is, it was our choice to cease efforts in conquering that bastard. So, we’re stuck. And we panic. And dig, and dig, and dig until finally plummeting into our real all-time low. All of this rambling is for a reason, please believe me. The lyrical writing encourages me to tell my story because it makes it sound prettier than it actually was. See, I don’t like to say I was addicted to cocaine, because I wasn’t- I quit cold turkey after my overdose. However, I was very emotionally dependent on it. In December of 2015, I met an extremely attractive guy at Espresso Art. I mean, holy damn, he flipped my world upside down (before dowsing it in kerosene and setting it afire LOL!). Anyway, we probably got a good two weeks in before the fighting began. It turned toxic quickly because I wanted to “fix him” but he liked the way he was. Dumb cliché but now I know. New Year’s Eve was the first time I did a line and the first time he shoved me against a wall. I began fighting back in February… pro-tip: don’t fight a wrestler. There were so many bad fights, but the last fight resulted in me tearing the rotator cuff in my right shoulder and him stealing $160 from my wallet. The following week, I quit my job and did not leave my bedroom- not for school, to shower, not even to eat. I was depressed and I felt disgusting but staying in my room was what helped me feel safe in a skin that was no longer mine. Eventually, I went back to school but my addiction was in full swing. One night, I was so high… I’m too embarrassed to retell what happened but let’s just say that if I was supposed to develop a mental disorder, I would have had my psychotic break that night. I lost twenty pounds, I was failing three out of four classes. A couple of weeks from that night, I found out my sister was blasting my struggles on the internet. All of our previous classmates, friends, and even our grandparents knew that I had been getting beat up and was using cocaine to cope with it. I felt humiliated, betrayed, worthless, and nothing all at once. The chest pains came metaphorically at first, but more literal with every line I racked up. I knew what was coming and I didn’t mind. I felt I was ready for it all to end. I told my mom and some close friends goodbye and finished my gram. But the pain became too unbearable. I could take a punch to the face, I could take a six-hour long tattoo. But this hurt so badly, it racked me to the core and made me realize, “yo, I do not want to leave this heavy burden of grief to my moms.” I, to this day, have never felt anything more painful. So I called my friend at the time, who was an avid user as well, to guide me through saving myself and I did it. The first anniversary will be this year on April 3rd…
It took me six months to properly heal. It’s hard for me to even explain the period after because the coping process was messy. I was so uncomfortable in my skin but I got a job in May and went to California with two of my coworkers in June. It was a lovely experience because these guys were genuinely caring. I grew to really trust one of them, he even lived with me for a week in August! I didn’t hang out with anyone I had known during or before that relationship. I lost the two roommates I had at the time but gained two new ones in July. I spent a lot of time alone or with books. I also found comfort in food. I ate soo many unhealthy foods and I was afraid to work out because my heart was so weak. The weight I was gaining back was subpar. Sometimes I would see a guy I had known before and I would get literal palpitations from the anxiety. I looked a lot different and my demeanor was extremely weak and vulnerable. I suppose my biggest healer was religion. I opened my heart to Islam back in December of 2015 but of course lost guidance along the way. I reintroduced myself to Allah in the summer and he accepted me for who I had been all along… I bet you’re wondering where my mom was during all of this, huh? She was there. Standing idle on the sidelines as she watched me tackle my demons; lending out a helping hand when I was about to face-plant in the mud. My mom dealt with addiction when she was my age too- to drugs, to boys, to whatever. She is the type of woman to encourage self-sufficiency. She let me make the mistakes I wanted to make to learn the lessons I needed to learn. But she was always a call away and never pushed rehab or religious treatment on me. I started hugging my mom last year during this time. Telling her I really love and appreciate her. I’m not exactly sure how a mother-daughter relationship is supposed to be, but her unconditional patience and the sacrifices she had to make for her kids… man. My mom taught me how to be more for myself. More selfless, more resilient, more understanding and patient. When I look at pictures taken of me during my healing period, I feel like, just sometimes, in certain photos, the light didn’t reach my eyes. It makes me sad. Maybe this is because I was focusing on reshaping my posture to be straight, strong, and confident again. Or maybe I was trying to keep my smile from being too goofy. Maybe I was focused on a nearby dog, or a cute guy, maybe some flowers down the way. Maybe the would-have-been light in my eyes was really just being disposed onto something much more beautiful and important than the moment of a snapshot. I survived everything and I am alive. I love being alive and I love living. All I see and allow myself to experience now is the positive beauty that life offers in every day. I’m silly and I laugh at everything. I know it’s annoying but I’m happy. No matter what I’m struggling with, I make sure that there is peace and happiness inside of my heart, and that I emit it. Survivors make it our mission to spread that smile of understanding, hope, and motivation because it makes a difference. And that seemingly little difference, actually makes all the difference.
“The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows,” (2013). Tumblr. Retrieved on February 25, 2017 from http://www.dictionaryofobscuresorrows.com/post/23536922667/sonder
“Emotional Support Animal Registration,” (2016). ESAregistration. Retrieved on February 28, 2017 from https://www.esaregistration.org/
“Schizoaffective Disorder,” (2017). MedlinePlus. Retrieved on March 1, 2017 from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000930.htm
I love the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows!