Archive for June, 2013

Packing for the troops…

Today was “back to normal.” I spent the night alone in my house for the first time. It was rather uneventful. Alexa and I were both so tired and went to bed very early. Alexa and I spent the morning packing up donations for the troops. Mainly I packed and she played but how cute is she?

Alexa helping!

Alexa helping!

I got seven boxes of toiletries, snacks, DVDs etc split up to go to 4 different units in Afghanistan. It was a productive day!

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There I was…

This is going to probably seem like a photo blog today, but who doesn’t like pictures!

The day started with a drive to NJ. I was optimistic that I could handle anything that came my way and was going to have a good time. I did have a good time, but there were some snags in between.

That tonight's gonna be a good night....

That tonight’s gonna be a good night….

First, since I was going to be in my hometown, I made a quick stop at the house I grew up in. I lived in that house until I was 18 and have a lot of memories there. At first, I quickly drove by since someone was outside. I went back around the block and stopped and talked to him. It was the same owners since we left, and I asked if I could take a photo. It looks so different yet so much the same!

My old house.

My old house.

Next stop, the 7 min drive to a friend’s house to get ready! I was getting excited.

All ready!

All ready!

The ceremony began. The bride looked so beautiful. I started to tear up and then could not control my crying. I was crying so much I had to get up and walk out. Not a good way to start the day, but I was hoping this would get it all out.

Danielle going down the aisle.

Danielle going down the aisle.

I collected myself and was able to watch from outside the glass. It was a beautiful ceremony and I was glad I was able to be there. We had some time in between, so went to a friend’s house to hang out for a bit. It was nice to relax and catch up. Time went by fast and I was ready to have some fun. Cocktail hour was a blast. I enjoyed my one wedding cake martini and spending time with my friends. I was confident it was going to be a great night.

I feel so classy with a martini glass in my hand.

I feel so classy with a martini glass in my hand.

My hot date

My hot date

The hour went by quickly and it was time to go into the reception. It was so beautiful and I was surrounded by friends. Again, I was ready to do this! The introductions were great and I was really getting into it. The next thing I heard was “And now the bride and groom will dance their first dance to From This Moment by Shania Twain.” I turned to my table and said, ” this is MY wedding song,” and ran out the door, down the hall and outside, as quickly as possible. I did not want to get upset again and I knew I could not watch someone else dance to this song. My “date” and my friend chased my down the hall in high heels. Thinking back, this must have been a hilarious sight. I got through it without a tear, or hearing the song, and went back in. Things got fun. When the first slow song came on, a good friend danced with me. Thankfully, his wife is a good friend too and she didn’t mind. I don’t even know what song it was, but it meant a lot that someone cared and he did not think twice about just grabbing my hand and taking me to the dance floor. The fast songs came on and I danced and sang and had a blast. One of Alex’s favorite songs was “Sweet Caroline.” I danced and sang my ass off, all the while thinking “this one’s for you baby.” Here is a video of he and a friend singing (inappropriately) to that same song. Sweet Caroline.

Things were going great when they showed a slideshow of photos the photographers had taken earlier in the day. They were beautiful. Watching, I started thinking of our days of wedding photography together and again, burst into tears. I was so mad at myself. I felt like I made an ass of myself and made other people uncomfortable at the table. Everyone assured me it was fine and they were all missing him too. I’m still disappointed that I could not have a normal night out without getting upset. With all of this going on, I went to the ladies room at just the right time and missed having to actually say no to going up for the  bouquet. I know I am single, but I just do not feel comfortable with all of that. I am glad I was not involved. I calmed down and had some dessert and started getting back into the swing of things. Toward the end of the night “the song” came on. The song being the one I have described before. Our song that we always miss and now I keep hearing. My cousin asked what I wanted to do, leave, dance etc. Another friend said he would dance with me. It worked out well and I felt better about it. Again, thankful his wife was okay with that. Just to make things funnier, as I was leaving, I saw a bride from another wedding going on. She was wearing my wedding dress! Well not mine, but the same dress! I just had to laugh by this point. The day had some major ups and downs, but I am glad I went. I would have been upset if I missed it. It was a step and even though I did not get through it with flying colors, I got through it. I know people are proud of me and I should be too. I’m trying.

Thank you to everyone who got me through the night, especially, Laura, Liz, Adam, Joe, Shannon, Amanda, and Brian.

I got up this morning to find a little man in my bed!

Dylan!

Dylan!

I packed up, stopped at my former job for a quick visit, and then headed back to Delaware. I was amazed to see these photos still on the wall!

Nathan and Juan (top Right) Danette and I (Second row, middle)

Nathan and Juan (top Right)
Danette and I (Second row, middle)

I’m exhausted and emotionally drained, but happy to be home to this little face.

Alexa going grocery shopping while mommy was away.

Alexa going grocery shopping while mommy was away.

No matter what happened, I did it.

Here I am…

My first wedding… There have been great moments, pretty bad moments and everything in between… But I’m doing it. I’ll post more tomorrow.

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Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I am going to my friend’s wedding. Right now, I am very excited. I am looking forward to getting dressed up and having a night out. I am taking my married, female cousin as a date. I know we will have a blast together. It is time for me to start doing normal things and start learning how to move on. This is my life and it is not going to change, so I’d better get used to it. That being said, I know there may be some rough moments tomorrow. Alex won’t be there when a slow love song comes on and he will not be running around with his camera. Neither will I. I’m just going to go and relax and have fun. I don’t need the reminder of taking photos alone. I was just thinking today how funny it is that five years later I’m going to the wedding of the woman who caught my bouquet! In talking about it today, I actually referred to myself as single. A friend mentioned that she thought that was a big step for me. I still think it’s a technicality. I don’t know that I will be comfortable enough to try to catch hers, but I won’t 100% count it out yet. Every day of my life is happy and sad at the same time. Tomorrow will be too.
Way back when, I wrote about how I kept hearing a song that should have been our wedding song. Every event we went to, we always missed dancing to it. After he died, I got very angry hearing it and screamed at “him.” I never heard it again. Interestingly enough, I heard it twice today. I feel like he’s trying to tell me something. I just don’t know what.
I really wished I could text him tonight when I found out that we are finally getting a Jersey Mikes in DE! I’m sure he knows how excited I am. Of course, it’s an hour away but still!

Bipolar disorder

As far as I know, Alex was never officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. However, it turns out there is a lot I don’t know. After he passed away, I was told by a family member  that it was suspected before we met. Since we did not have much contact with his family at that point, I never knew. I am honestly not sure if he was unaware, denying it, or hiding it from me. I guess I never will.

After learning of this, I began researching the disorder. This is taken directly from the US National Library of Medicine.

“Bipolar disorder is a condition in which a person has periods of depression and periods of being extremely happy or being cross or irritable.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Bipolar disorder affects men and women equally. It usually starts between ages 15 and 25. The exact cause is not known. But it occurs more often in relatives of people with bipolar disorder.

In most people with bipolar disorder, there is no clear cause for the periods (episodes) of extreme happiness (mania) or depression. The following may trigger a manic episode:

  • Childbirth
  • Medicines such as antidepressants or steroids
  • Periods of not being able to sleep (insomnia)
  • Recreational drug use

My first thought upon reading this section was “periods of not being able to sleep.” At the time of his death, we had a 7 month old. We had not slept well in a very long time. He was not using drugs, but I did find that he was spending large amounts of money at GNC on weight loss and muscle enhancement supplements. Quite possibly a coincidence, but who knows.

Symptoms

The manic phase may last from days to months. It can include these symptoms:

  • Easily distracted
  • Little need for sleep
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor temper control
  • Reckless behavior and lack of self control such as drinking, drug use, sex with many partners, spending sprees
  • Very elevated, expansive or irritable mood, such as racing thoughts, talking a lot, false beliefs about self or abilities
  • Very involved in activities

Alex was one of the most easily distracted people I have ever met in my life. We used to joke about it and fight about it. He could be carrying a 50 pound litter box and walk past the TV and he would notice the TV, and forget what he was doing. He would be able to just stand there holding the litter completely lost in what was on TV. Having a conversation could be difficult at times as he would get distracted by the slightest thing. His sleep patterns always amazed me. He would go through periods where he would be up half the night playing video games and seem fine. Other times he wanted to go to bed at 6pm. He did have poor judgment with certain things, but I never felt it was anything out of control. As far as reckless behaviors are concerned, he was very reckless with money. Other than that, he was not. He had NO temper control toward the end. This did not seem to be an issue when we met. As time went on it would get worse and worse. He would punch things, say crazy things, threaten, scream at me to get away because he can’t control himself etc. Five minutes later he was back to his happy self. Very involved in activities is an understatement. If you look through these, a lot can describe anyone though. I really just thought it was his personality.

 

The depressive episode may include these symptoms:

  • Daily low mood or sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Eating problems such as loss of appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, or guilty
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble getting to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Pulling away from friends or activities that were once enjoyed

Looking back, I see pretty much all of these. He would go through phases of sadness, but don’t we all. We fought a lot about him not remembering things. I would have a vivid recollection of a conversation that he said we never had. I was told a lot that I did not keep him informed when I felt I did. Over the years he lost weight, gained weight, lost weight, gained weight. But, so did I! The amount of energy he had amazed me sometimes. Other times, he was too tired to do anything. He always lost pleasure in activities. Something he loved, he didn’t care about anymore. Something else took it’s place. He would get very down on himself and say he didn’t know what I saw in him. As I mentioned, sleep was always a weird thing for him. I learned a lot that he used to hide behind me to not have to hang out with friends. He was doing this in the end. He would say I had to work, or he would ask me and then never respond. Clearly, he was suicidal, as we all know the end result.

Persons with bipolar disorder are at high risk of suicide. They may abuse alcohol or other substances. This can make the symptoms and suicide risk worse. At least 25% to 50% of patients with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once.

Episodes of depression are more common than episodes of mania. The pattern is not the same in all persons with bipolar disorder:

  • Depression and mania symptoms may occur together. This is called a mixed state.
  • Symptoms may also occur right after each other. This is called rapid cycling.

I’m not even sure how to explain it. But this makes sense to me. I think in the “rapid cycling” or “mixed state,” it makes it harder to notice.

Today I read “When Bipolar Disorder Leads to Extreme Shopping.” Here are some quotes:

“When you have manias, that voice of caution is literally taken away. It is gone,”

“I have known people who have used up their whole 401(k)s, who have gambled it all away, who have taken their kids’ college money,” she said. At the time, “it feels so good that you don’t even worry or feel guilty.”

“Typically when folks become manic, they get overconfident and lose the ability to evaluate the consequences of their actions,” says Dr Jair Soares, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “In that mind-state, when it comes to spending, they are bound to get into trouble.”

Then, of course, there is the crash. In a depressed state, those with bipolar are actually unlikely to spend much money at all, since they are often cocooned at home. But at that point they have to deal with the consequences of their previous overspending.

“If they bought a $10,000 watch, they might try to return it,” says Dr Igor Galynker, director of the Family Center for Bipolar at New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center. “Or they might try to hide the purchases, or get that money back by gambling on other investments.”

And those morning-after bills and bad feelings don’t just flow to the bipolar spender; their families feel the pain too.

This almost makes too much sense to me. I can’t really say that I feel better or worse, but I feel like maybe I can see things from his perspective now. The article goes on to explain how to keep control of this. I wish it weren’t too late.

 

Challenges

Each day brings new challenges, and new joys, new smiles, and new tears. In that way, my life is no different than anyone else’s. We all have hopes and dreams, fears and losses. We all succeed at something and fail at something else. What is important, is that we move on from our losses, face our fears, enjoy our successes, learn from our failures, bring on new challenges and never lose our joy. Someone recently explained to me the difference between happiness and joy. Life circumstances can make you unhappy, but joy is something that lives inside you. It is important to never lose that. And as always… “just keep swimming..”

I have interacted with someone recently who was rather unaware of the circumstances of my life until after a few meetings. When she heard about the fact that I was a widow and single mom, and some things that had happened surrounding it, she told me “wow, you would never know.” Of course, I did not have a tape recorder and do not remember word for word, but it was basically stated that I came across as a happy, well adjusted person and you wouldn’t know something terrible had happened to me within the past six months. I thought about this a lot. I could be miserable and take it out on other people, but where would that get me? Would it bring Alex back? Would it make me happier? No, it certainly would not. I think, ultimately, in some strange way, it may have made me a better person. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I was a bad person, and I do not feel that this should have happend to me, but I have learned a lot about myself and others in the past few months. I must also mention that everyone does not see me every minute of every day. I do get angry and upset sometimes. You can tell by my posts.

Recently, more and more people in my life have come forward with stories of people in their lives completing suicide. I have such conflicting feelings on this. First, I must mention that some of these people I have known for years, and never knew that they were survivors. Now, it is open for conversation as “someone else who can relate.” This has happened a lot lately. Others, I do not know well and have come forward looking for someone to talk to in their situation. In general, I am sad to find that so many others know the pain and questioning I do. I appreciate so much both the people looking for help, and those looking to help me. It is nice to know people care, and just as nice to know that I can be of help to someone.

I have mentioned previously that I have gone back to school, but never really elaborated on it. I am going to school online for a Bachelors degree in Grief Counseling and Bereavement. I am not sure exactly what I am going to do with this degree, as I have no interest in sitting across from someone on a couch, but I do want to help others in my, or similar, situations. That is pretty obvious considering I take the time to write about my life. I also feel that it is very helpful to me to learn about. I’m not sure I will ever fully switch careers, but clearly, I like to have a lot on my plate. I never got a Bachelors degree, so here is my chance to cross something off the bucket list. It may take 10 years, but I know I can do it. It’s a new challenge, but a good one.

I am happy to announce that my mother and I were in the newspaper this week. Well, really my mom was, but my name was mentioned!  Right now, we are collecting for the soldiers and military dogs needs in Afghanistan. I am posting the article as a link, but it will disappear soon. I am very excited to be a part of this. I plan to start boxing up items we have purchased and received and shipping them on Tuesday. If you would like to donate items, or funds for shipping, please contact me. I have another fundraiser in the works for another very worthy cause, and will post when I have details. I will be starting an area of this site just for my fundraising activities soon.

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Do Gooder: Camden mom mounts drive for soldier’s necessities. 

I have mentioned before that I hate the idea that “misery loves company.” I want those around me to be happy. I have clearly had some significant struggles in my life and come out on the other side. I want everyone to do the same (maybe even with a smile on their face.) I was so incredibly happy to see this text tonight. Life has been tough on this friend lately, and it means a lot to me to see this.

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A lot of misery comes from being unable to overcome those life struggles. I have had a lot of help with mine. I have just started life coaching to help others with their challenges. Yes, I wanted to take on one more thing! So far it is going well… There will be more details to follow.

String

“Grief is like a ball of string, you start at one end and wind. Then the ball slips through your fingers and rolls across the floor. Some of your work is undone but not all. You pick it up and start over again, but you never have to begin again at the end of the string. The ball never completely unwinds. You’ve made some progress”

Today the ball slipped through my fingers and rolled across the floor. Tomorrow I pick it up and start again…

still life string

Just another day

I had a other doctor appointment this morning. As usual, after not being there for a while, I had to fill out new paperwork and check off the widow box. Amazing how that seems so normal to me now. They had paperwork with all of my and Alexa’s information on it. I happened to notice that it stated that her father died 12/31/13. I had to tell the receptionist they had it showing my husband died in the future. Weird. I have to go for a kind of annoying procedure that I’m not so comfortable with tomorrow. I’ve never done one without Alex. I know I can do it. Well, I hope I can do it. I really don’t want to without him. I also don’t want to get upset and look crazy. They sent me for more bloodwork as well. Alexa and I both needed our blood drawn so we went right to the lab this morning. Multiple times they asked me her race. I repeated she’s half Filipino. “And half white?” Well gee don’t I look white? Then they keep asking, “is that Hispanic, Asian or other?” Umm I don’t know! All of the above? Is that an option? Why do they need that? She cried but we got through it. I promised her a shopping trip so away we went. I know what you’re thinking. I know she doesn’t understand, but she loves shopping! Since I was a child, it has been tradition to get Mcdonalds on bloodwork days. I still keep that tradition. Thank goodness for their egg white delite. So good!
We went and bought a bunch of items to send to troops in Afghanistan. Thanks to all who are helping us by donating items and money to buy and ship items. You may contact me if you wish to help out. Next stop, the mall! Two years ago Alex bought me a pair of breast cancer Oakleys. They are my all time favorite sunglasses. In the past few weeks, they disappeared. I’ve finally admitted that I lost them and bought a new, almost exact, pair. I feel like crap that I lost the ones he got me. Idk how that happened. I didn’t buy the exact pair because I’m still hoping I will come across them someday and will have two different ones. Lexie and I had lunch there and I’m appalled by what is offered as “kid’s meals.” Terrible! I am even more appalled at what I found in the “gumball machines” for kids. (See photo below.) We spent most of the day out and came home and played outside. I did test out my new Dyson while she was having her snack. I got an amazing deal on it with free shipping and 0% financing! It is the best thing for pet and child filled homes. Alexa is amazing at finding the tiniest little something on the floor and hopefully now it won’t be an issue. I am also posting a photo that will show my weight loss progress. The photo was originally meant as a joke but it shows it well. As usual, tomorrow is another day.
PS: I do have something else to write about. Maybe another post later?

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New sunglasses

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Gumball machine!

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Fun in the sun!

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Weight loss

Doctors, keyboards and cars. Oh my!

Today was a day of doctor’s appointments. I had my bloodwork done and went to find out the results. They weren’t terrible but not great either. I have to work on some things and with my recent diet change, exercise and weight loss I should be able to take care of it. I will get re-tested in three months. I got back home from there and was working on my computer, when I accidentally hit the power button on my wireless keyboard. This sent it into discovery mode. I tried everything and cannot get it to reconnect. My login is setup to not have discovery mode on. The keyboard cannot find my computer anymore. Since Alex’s login is the administrator, I need to set it from his profile. I can’t switch to his because it is still password protected. I can’t put the password in because I can’t use the keyboard! I found myself saying “life would be so much easier if he didn’t do that!” Then said,” life would be easier if he didn’t do a lot of things.” Ugh! Next was Alexa’s 1 year checkup. First, she was playing with her toy phone in the waiting room. A woman asked her who she was talking to. She looked up and said “dada.” Boy was I embarrassed trying to explain to Alexa she wasn’t talking to dada. There were a list of questions to find out her lead exposure risk. One of the questions asked if anyone in the household went to the gun range. Oh my god! I never even realized! All the time he was shooting behind my back, he was putting her at risk for lead poisoning! As if I needed something else to be angry about! Well, he’s been gone over 5 months so it really doesn’t matter now. All I can say is man that would have been a fight and a half. They asked questions about my height and his. We discussed signs of mental illness. She will need to be watched since this can be hereditary. Of course, main things to look for are short temper and extreme strong will. Well that just sounds like my personality! We discussed how Alexa needs to know her her father through photos and videos. She already points to the memorials on our cars and says “dada.” It just feels like this is not a normal pediatrician wellness visit… But that’s my life. I always wonder how much she can really understand at this age.
I found a crack in my iPhone. I’ve been thinking about upgrading for months but keep putting it off. The home button doesn’t work and it is super slow for all that I use it for. I didn’t really want to spend the money. This may be my sign. I have to back it up first. I have been very worried about losing all of my texts to/from Alex. I never delete my texts so there are 2 years worth on here. I don’t want to lose them. I need to get my keyboard up and running to make sure I save everything first! Coming back from Walmart tonight, I saw a silver Civic hatchback again. There must be one in the area. It’s not a common car and I keep seeing it. I smiled and told him I saw it. I know he would have made his cute little “yay” shriek and pointed it out. I miss him tonight. We always used to say,” we’ll figure it out. We always do.” I guess now I can say “I’ll be ok. I always am.”

Communication

Looking back on our marriage has taught me a lot. We had our ups and downs but when it came down to it, we were deeply in love. I can say that most of our problems were financial but really our downfall was communication. I’ll be the first to admit that I missed all the signs of mental illness. I just didn’t know. Instead of pushing him to get help, I would tell him he was acting childish and needed to be an adult about things. Was he just acting childish or was it a sign of things? I really don’t know. I should have paid more attention instead of feeling he was making excuses when he kept self diagnosing with ADHD or a head injury. Granted, when the doctor said it was depression, he denied it and dropped it. I always felt that freaking out and walking away from a situation was never the answer. Maybe it is. When something was bothering him, he never told me. I constantly felt like I had to be a mind reader. Example: A: “you won’t let me go do this.”
H:”Did you tell me you wanted to?”
A:”well, no.”
H: “Then how was I stopping you if I had no idea?”
A: “I don’t know.”
He would blow up at me for no reason, only for me to find it was over something else he never told me. One day he freaked out at me for what I was wearing and it turned into a huge fight. Turns out, he didn’t like that I previously told him not to go out in a wife beater. “It didn’t need to be said.” I guess it didn’t. I didn’t realize it upset him though, and I certainly didn’t mean to. Ultimately, he had no issue with what I was wearing, and there was no need for an argument. But every couple fights over stupid things right? That’s what I thought.
I was called a spitfire yesterday. Maybe I am too blunt and honest. You need a happy medium. In a relationship, you need to figure out what method of communication works for you. We never did. This was the biggest struggle for us. There is really nothing else I can complain about. He was a great guy. He loved me and wanted me to be happy. He wanted to help whomever he could. I can’t help but think if we had fixed this, the outcome may be different. Probably not, but I wonder. So what’s the point in all this? No one is perfect. We both made mistakes in our communication. We should have figured out a better way. You live and you learn.

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