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#2 It's no joke

Updated: Apr 21

Some of the intent in this blog is to talk about hard things. I want to post about my mental capacity today; because it’s time to recognize some gains I have made and at the same time try to talk about something that is hard to put into words. It’s time to look at some of the things I experienced (am still experiencing) and give myself a tiny cheer for an ounce of regain along the way. I hope that I can offer anyone else some insight into a part of me OR with their own situations or feelings. Maybe offer up some camaraderie, reason for self-permission or peace with a bit of technical understanding. Or maybe just spread some hope. Because there is a lot of hope.

13 months from death date.

Here we go:

My brain has always shuffled things into compartments; each slot taking up space based on priority, degree of urgency, and impact. I can shift and shuffle those compartments around. And then, when a focus isn’t needed, the compartment empties out and moves to the back of the line to be filled. Sometimes I visualize this; the dumping of buckets, small buckets, big buckets moving around in there. It feels organized and efficient. It looks like a train, with tracks and levers to slide the cars into various positions.

A Quincy compartment has always been in my brain. All of my kids have their own compartment. Sometimes their buckets are bigger, sometimes they shift around in position. And when Quincy died; all three kid buckets got huge. Quincy's bucket? GIANT.

I’ve not had a compartment so big in my head before. Not even close.

Inside this bucket are scenes and words, worry and questions.

It can stay on repeat.

For months there was no moving that bucket. I couldn’t even see shadows of other buckets; just a constant giant Quincy bucket out front, hiding any of the other compartments. There were no levers visible to shift things around.

For those of you that know me well, you know that I have a passion for problem solving; built my career on it. Strategy banks, skill building, strength based forward movement, trying new things: All in the name of betterment: Try something, collect the data, analyze the results, and check out the trajectory.

If it doesn’t work? Try something else and try again.

I live my life this way. And I got to a point in this grief where I recognized that I have some choice in how I am taking it on. It is a very good thing. At some point I remembered that I have some skills, but for a period of time there was no choice, and no recall of the ability that I know so well in me.

For the first time in my life, my tanked capacity did not allow me to operate or utilize my skills. I had zero choices for a while. Never in my life have I not been able to forge ahead in crisis. I am not built to stay down-at least, I didn't think I was. I have always had a choice in how I want to use my capacity. Except I had none. Gone. No hint of it.

It makes a lot of sense now, to have heard about people having memory issues following a trauma. It’s something I had never experienced. Months of gaps: Being frustrated with myself when I couldn’t remember simple things. I made questionable decisions I don’t remember making or looking back, I can’t believe I made. I don't recall running into people or lengthy conversations. I don’t remember scheduled events. I was losing my car keys, my purse, all sorts of things; left and right. (I have always been the FINDER of things!) It was confusing and caused new-to-me panic moments. There were whole weeks and whole days that I still don’t remember. Hours. Events. Most of the time I didn't even recognize that I was even being forgetful.

I got made fun of for it.

It's no joke.

At times, especially the several months that followed Quincy’s death, I am in the middle of full-blown conversations and realize that I have no idea what I have been discussing. I switch to the critical out-front Quincy compartment without realizing it, and with no control.

Because Quincy's compartment throws out whatever it needs to, it shows me pictures or movie scenes (good and bad), as clear as a video reel in front of me. But more often I see words. Actual physical words being written in my brain like a typewriter or handwritten script.

My obsession with writing started shortly after Quincy’s death.

All things in moderation folks, because I was spending hours and hours and hours writing. I would wake in the middle of the night with the urge to write, forcing me to my feet and to a notepad or into my phone to write pages and pages of notes. The number one recommendation and strategy given to me to help process? WRITE. Writing is therapeutic and a great strategy serving all sorts of things, but all things in moderation.

And here I am writing a Blog :)

This whole time, even in my lower capacity, I have been doing what I do. Gathering information on what is working. What is not working. I’ve tussled with strategies to find what works to have some comfort. I inadvertently held a piece of "what I do" by collecting some data and now I can even view some results. In the very beginning my trajectory was all over the place, it still is and likely will be forever, but I have found some things to be surefire helpers.

I Immediately got a pet following Quincy's death. I didn't have any pets at home. I got a cat. He's a beauty. He's a weirdo. Truth be told I am a dog lady; I wasn't sure about my capacity in the responsibility of a dog right away, even though I have quite literally never been without a pack of dogs in my adulthood. But I got a cat. And I will tell you what: It's no joke. Pets are absolutely critical for mental health. And after Quincy died? This cat made me laugh, made me care, made me smile, made me feed him, made me throw toys for him. Because...well, you have to entertain this gorgeous beast of a whackadoo. And it didn't take any capacity at all from me. Kinny Boy=critical.

Distractions. Distractions were absolutely critical for me. The word "distraction" often has a negative connotation behind it. Don't be fooled: Distractions were GOOD for me.

They allowed me time. Time to spread my grief so that it didn't pummel me all at once. Distractions allowed me time away from my newly-found obsessions. They allowed me to feel joy when my body was forcing me to tank. Distractions help(ed) me pace out my saturated grief a bit. Helped me slow my obsessions. And distractions help(ed) me move my compartments around ever so slightly, so that I could still take care of other critical compartments. So; finding some distractions... Yes. Yes please.

The thing about distractions, is people tend to point them out for others: "Oh, you are using that as a distraction." or "oh, well that's just a distraction for you so that you don't do this or that." Again, it is put out there that you are doing something wrong, implying that it's a bad thing to latch on to a bit of something else.

But, when you're the one with the distraction? It feels like the person means to say: "I see that thing makes you happy, BUT: You shouldn't do that thing. You should just stay in the focus of what is tearing you apart."

Those distractions were (are) highlights to me. Some peace and laughter. The typical use of the word is to imply that someone isn't dealing with something because they were distracted. That's not what it was (is) for me. It's a BREAK from the reel. It's a damper during a time of saturation. I will scream from the top of the hills that distractions are CRITICAL.

The distractions helped my memory regain some firing. They set me in a place that gave me some normalcy away from the Quincy compartment, which over time helped (is helping) me utilize my capacity: A capacity, which does not operate at all if the Quincy compartment is the only one that I see. I'll take the distractions: But again, all things in moderation. It's no joke.

Today, I see more compartments. The Quincy bucket is still very much full, but I give myself the freedom to spend time with it, and it is more of a choice. It still comes out front with no warning, and I let myself have that too. I will continue to let this kitty love on me, continue to take on some distractions, and continue to believe in my own strengths.

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