It’s been one of those weeks.
My anxiety is through the roof,
and Im not sure why.
Well, thats not entirely true.
I always know why.
I’m a sudden death widow.
My husband, at age 46, young and healthy and never sick a day in his life (literally – the man called out once from work in all the years I knew him, and it was so he could lie in bed and cry and grieve his cat Isabelle, when she died), left for work one morning, and never came home.
As long as I live on this earth, his death will never make sense in my brain.
I can “accept” that it happened, because I have no choice.
I live with his death every day.
But it will never make sense logically.
In my brain.
Or in my heart.
There will never be a “why” for that question.
It just hangs there.
My husband left for work that day at 5am or so, not waking me.
I was jarred awake by a ringing phone, over and over.
Around 6:30 am.
It was the call of death.
The call that said “the life you knew is gone.”
I literally woke up to a brand new Hell.
That was in 2011.
That was the 2nd time,
that I woke up to a brand new Hell.
The first time was in 1996.
That time, I was jarred awake by a man on top of me.
Choking me, forcing himself on me, mocking me. Killing my soul.
My ex-boyfriend, whom I had just broken things off with,
after learning many things about him,
that I didn’t like.
I had neglected to take back the extra key I had given him,
and so he used it to break into my apartment in the early morning hours,
and violently rape me.
I was beaten and bruised and most likely drugged with something,
by the time he had left.
I felt dizzy and nauseous and numb.
I sat in the corner by the wall,
of my apartment.
I couldnt cry.
I couldnt live.
I couldnt tell.
He had threatened me and my family.
He told me “I would kill you, but you’re not worth it.”
Instead, he left me to cope with this new Hell,
that was now my life.
It was about 6:30 am,
when he left me there,
crumpled up in the corner,
inside my brand new Hell.
My late husband was the man who saved me.
From wanting to die.
From not caring about life,
He was the person who saw through my sarcasm,
and into my Pain.
He saw through my shield of fat,
and into my beauty.
He was the person that said one night on the phone,
from Florida to New York,
before we had even met in person,
“Im going to stay on this phone with you
until you feel safe,
and you can tell me what happened to you,
but I know something happened,
and you can trust me with it.”
He stayed on the phone with me from 11pm,
until almost right around 6:30 am.
The sun came up,
literally and figuratively,
before we hung up that call.
It was maybe 3 months into our “friendship with potential for more” online.
and that morning,
I knew I loved him.
It was around 6:30 am,
when we hung up,
and I knew,
I could trust him with my life.
Seven years later,
he moved his life and his cat Isabelle,
and everything he owned,
up from Florida to New Jersey,
in a Penske yellow truck,
with his car attached to the back.
It was Superbowl Sunday,
and we began a brand new life.
On December 18th of that year,
he brought me to the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree,
and proposed marriage,
with hundreds of onlookers, clapping and cheering our love.
It was 21 degrees, and I never felt more warmth.
We married, and I don’t recall a happier day.
A day filled with everyone we loved,
all in one place.
Nothing could take away our bliss.
Death was there, stalking us, no warning in sight. And around 6:30am on that ordinary July morning, everything was suddenly gone. My mom drove 4 hours from Massachusetts to New Jersey, minutes after I called her to say the horrific words: “Don is dead.” She stayed with me for 2 or 3 nights, then we drove back home to pick up my dad, and come back to Jersey, so we could all attend the funeral services. Then I drove back to Massachusetts with them, and stayed at their house for about 2 weeks. It was summer, so I still had a couple of weeks before my teaching job would start in mid-August. At some point in time, I dont remember when, they drove me back to New Jersey, and then left. And I was alll alone, just me and my brand new Hell.
The anxiety was instant. The panic attacks. Don had not only been my partner and my husband, but he was there for me in the immediate few year after the rape. He was the one who I would call at 3am, after Id have another nightmare/terror flashback, of being choked – or I would wake up feeling like I was choking. I would call him in a panic, and he would repeat over and over: “Youre safe. Nothing will ever happen to you while Im around. I wont let anything happen to you. I promise.” When he moved in, he would often rock me back and forth until the nightmares stopped. He would always ask permission before taking any steps with me intimately. He made sure that me feeling safe was the number one priority. With him in my life and in the bed with me at night, my most vulnerable and “triggery” time, I began to slowly feel safe again.
Then he died. And my parents went back home to their life, and I had to sleep alone in our bed. Every noise. Every creak. Every whisper. I was on edge. I was up all night. I was tense and filled with terror. I didnt know how to make it through the day. I sat in the corner of our room, just crying. My head often hurt from the crying. Then my hand would hurt from punching walls or bathroom mirrors or throwing my computer across the room when it stopped working and my husband wasnt there to take care of it. My brand new life was filled with fear.
Four years into my brand new life, I met a widower who used to know Don. They had worked together years ago in EMS down in Florida. The way we met felt like it was meant to be. Our connection was undeniable. My heart opened itself up to love. To the idea of it. I shared my first kiss with him. He was kind. A true gentleman. And then a year and a half later, he shattered my heart into a million pieces. Sudden loss. He dropped all commuication, after we had spoken daily for a year and a half. He got scared. He didnt know how to love. He abandoned me.
Last year, back in June, I began going on the dating sites. I was lonely, and my way of coping with this man hurting me, was to get back out there. I wanted so badly to be loved. Someone disappearing with no explanation brought me right back to the morning of Don’s death. And the morning of the rape. Being in a corner. Alone. Abandoned. Why would someone just STOP communicating with me, after telling me they loved me? When men would do this, in my mind, there were only two reasons: He’s either dead, or he left me to die in a corner, because I’m not worth more. Im not worth an explanation. Im not worth a conversation. This is what I would tell myself. And then it kept happening. I met another widower, about a year ago last June, and we dated for just over 5 months. He was my “first time” after Don. My first relationship. I opened myself to him. I made a ton of mistakes. He cheated and lied to me. He humiliated me. He humiliated me, and then treated me like I wa dirt, like I was the one who had treated him poorly. He manipulated me. He was a narcissist, and I felt used and incredibly stupid.
Our relationship ended last October, and I moved out of NYC right after Christmas, leaving him behind me and trying to comfort my broken heart. I remained on the dating sites, changing my location to Massachusetts. I had a lot of first dates that didnt turn into second ones. I had a few that were nice, normal, really good guys, that just didnt work out for whatever reason. Then, I had my heart shattered some more. And some more. And some more. Two back to back divorced guys. Both relationships started very quickly and intensely – both ended without explanation and not face to face. Cowards. Leaving me by text message, after a couple month long relationship. Deciding to go back, to “try again”, with their ex-wives. I sat out in nature and just begged Don to please just send me someone who would love me and respect me. I knew I was not done with love, but each time this happened, the anxiety and the panic and terrors would reinforce themselves, all over again.
Just as I was very ready to give up, I found it. My new love was there, and I took a risk and reached out to him. And now here we are, almost 6 months later, inside this beautiful thing called Love.
But Im so very afraid.
Im so damaged.
I never really coped with all of those losses,and all of those heartbreaks.
I went right into the next thing, because I was tired of feeling.
For 6 damn years, I kept FEELING.
Working my grief. Feeling every emotion. Processing through the shittiest of shit.
I was left with terror and exhaustion.
This wonderful man is in my life,
and every day,
I wake up in fear.
I wake up thinking: “He might die today.”
Or: “what if he decides he doesnt actually love me today?”
What if today, is day one of my brand new Hell?
I have PTSD. I have panic. I have triggers.
From sexual trauma.
From sudden death trauma,
and all that is associated with that.
From being left by men,
over and over and over
I am happy.
But it’s a fight.
I have to FIGHT for my joy.
All the time.
It’s not easy.
But I want to have the love.
Because Love is Everything.
Please dont tell me,
as a reaction to me finding love again,
that I am “blessed”,
or “Youre so lucky”,
or anything else,
such as this,
that suggests that anything else,
other than ME,
is responsible for my joy,
that I fight for,
and cling to,
I worked hard for this.
I continue to work hard.
3 years in grief counseling therapy,
before Love could even enter
my thoughts again.
All I can do is be open about it,
with my love,
and try to figure out why.
I dont know.
But I will keep fighting
even on weeks like this one,
when my anxiety is through the roof.
I will fight,
if it means,
I get to have more