Living With Grief

I Don’t Feel Normal

Heightened (adjective): More intense than normal

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all definition for normal, but I think we all know what feels normal for us. And I just don’t feel normal – even though all my medical test results say I am.

Whilst James described everything as fine, I find that everything is heightened at the moment.

For a start, I cry at everything now. I always was a crier, when it befitted the moment: I mean, who didn’t cry at the end of the Titanic? And of course I’m going to cry during Up now (the wife has a miscarriage, depicted beautifully, at the beginning of the film), but why am I also crying during the Little Mermaid? The film I put on to cheer me up? ‘Part of Your World’ is one of my favourite Disney songs (I wanted our string quartet to play it during our wedding breakfast, but they were charging extra to learn a new song – how it was not already in their repertoire, is beyond me! – and we ran out of pennies). I burst into tears listening to the Little Mermaid, because all I could think was “Summer didn’t get to hear this song”. I also started crying sad tears when I watched a video of a neighbour’s daughter (a complete stranger) singing a song I didn’t even know, and I cried when I saw swans in Hyde Park –  that’s not normal behaviour.

Stress is also heightened at the moment, which isn’t great, seeing as I was always a bit of a stress-head anyway. I could always go from 0 to 100, but it’s happening more frequently now. Like yesterday, when we ran out of drinking water during our short walk. James started doing this thing with his hand to indicate that my stress levels were rising unnecessarily (which oddly didn’t stress me out, it reeled me back in a bit).

I also feel overwhelmed, a lot. Even though there’s nothing to be overwhelmed about. I’m sure I never felt this way before. I’ve never had to make so few decisions, and the decisions I do have to make, there’s ample time to make them – I have never had so much space and time. So why am I feeling so mentally drained and physically exhausted? Is this due to the Covid lockdown? I have no idea.

Today, I have that weird too-much-coffee feeling, except I haven’t had any coffee. In fact, I switched to decaf years ago, because I disliked that too-much-coffee feeling so much. I’m just so jittery and anxious and there’s a grey haze in my head and before my eyes. I have a delayed reaction to processing what’s happening, what’s being said. Something is up. I’m not sure that I can blame it on hormones as it’s nearly 5 months since Summer passed away, but I just don’t feel normal anymore.

Is this grief? Or am I just excusing this behaviour in the name of grief? I don’t know what it is, but I don’t like it. I don’t recognise it. I can’t say it enough: I just don’t feel normal.

I’m scared of feeling like this, because I’m unsure how long it will last. How long does something have to last until we concede that this is now the new normal? I think we’re already there with Covid, realistically this year’s a write-off. Will have to try again for normalcy next year.

But what about me? Is the old-me a write-off too? I don’t want to feel so heightened, so regularly. I don’t want to be highly strung, overreacting, underperforming, these were hardly my better traits in the good times.

When these emotions combine, it’s a downward spiral. Today I woke up groggy (uh oh, that’s often a trigger), then felt angry at the builders not turning up, which led to a stressful appointment with Wren Kitchens, followed by a client call at work which was less than perfect, making me feel a complete failure (even though it was a minor case of someone stepping in to better articulate my point). This has resulted in a meltdown of a day. Even though I can objectively see that none of these things are a big deal, I can’t FEEL that they aren’t. I feel excessive anger, stress and uselessness.

What upsets me is that my usual joys can’t override any of this: It’s a beautifully sunny day out (I used to struggle to feel sad on sunny days) and I have two bouquets of beautiful flowers on my desk from J (pink stocks – google them, they’re stunning) and H (the most joyful sunflowers), and I have my cards from my cheerleaders – V, C, K and R – on my windowsill, which should cheer me up. But the sadness is winning. It just keeps winning. And this always throws me, that the whole-day becomes a complete write-off and gets relegated to the “I’ll try again tomorrow” pile. The only thing that helps is the reset button: drawing a line under this day and starting over tomorrow.

This is going to sound blunt, but I wish I could get over it already. This ‘feeling too much’ stuff is so irrational. I am not delusional, I know what’s happened, I get it: my child died, she is not coming back. I have had this happen before, twice. So what’s the big deal? Bounce back, buck up, get over it Anjulie. It’s getting boring now, for everyone.

I know that hardly any time has passed, but because I’ve been living every second of it, I also know how long it has lasted. It has lasted so long. And I’m actively willing for it to be over now (though I know I’ll feel guilty when it is: “What? Anjulie, is that it? The depth of your grief spanned five months? Five months and you were done? Call that love? Some mum! Ha!” – urgh, I hate me).

I just don’t see the end. Except my counselling sessions will be coming to an end tomorrow, just when I’m feeling crazier than ever; 12 sessions and the NHS are done with me. Just policy, I’m afraid. One of those things. So I’ll have to find another and start again, because there are only so many times I can call my friends crying about these things. James wondered how I extricate myself from this blog, but I’m wondering how my friends will decide to extricate themselves from my grief. Well some already have, they never showed up to begin with, ha. And now I’m going to exhaust the ones that did? Because I’m also highly offensive at the moment, not no mention highly sensitive, as well as being the over-thinker and over-sharer I always was. This is a not a combination for sustainable friendship. But please bear with me. Listen to what I say, but don’t always hear me.

I guess I’ll just have to “try again tomorrow”. We have a nice, busy, long, distracting weekend ahead. So I’m hoping that I can push pause, that this will all be Monday’s challenge and I can reconvene with my new heightened state then. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it.

A rather fitting question from today’s “question a day” 2020 planner.


(3) Comments

  1. Claire says:

    My darling Anj. You couldn’t be further from the truth (or bruth). Exhausting? Offensive? Seriously? No one thinks these things but you! That infuriating critical inner monologue of yours. Please try and be kind to yourself. If you can’t find joy, I know you can find kindness – you always do (in fact I feel you should add ‘Kind’ into your name, it would fit nicely just before your surname)! BE KIND TO YOURSELF. You are feeling such huge emotions that you are physically exhausted…be kind to yourself. Lots of love lovely lady.

  2. Melanie Shaw says:

    Anj, it must be so tough wishing to be done with it all and back to “yourself”. I would imagine it to feel almost suffocating. I really hope for you that you don’t feel like this forever. I am sure it must be grief responsible for the way you feel, which just has to improve over time. But maybe it won’t- and shouldn’t- go away altogether. You have been through something life-changing and maybe too you are grieving for “the old you”. The “you” untouched by this sadness.

  3. Hannah says:

    Try not to look too far ahead into the future Anj. For everyone I think that COVID has been a reminder that things can change so quickly and unexpectedly that we can’t try and plan ahead too much. Grief is all-consuming and although the tears will no doubt reduce over time, it is TOTALLY fine that they’re still there at the moment. Our society is constantly wanting us to move on and that’s not always the right thing to do.

    I’m not one for predicting too much in the near-future but here are some things you / we CAN be sure of:
    – The sun will rise each day and the night will end
    – The flowers will bloom & birds will sing
    – Friends will be here
    – Love will exist


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