Book worming, pain or suffering, and cortisol tricks? Grief has a physical and psychological component.
Small Wonder - Wed. Week 5
- Still studying So I'm still diving in to understand this grief thing. Finished another couple books (The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis). Listening while swimming and walking. They were more experiental books, on what they went through. I never went through denial or self delusion ("If I just do X, they'll be back"). And I was introspective, but not from a metaphysical/spiritual point of view like Lewis (defending against a crisis of faith). So interesting reads, but limited direct applicability. But it is interesting seeing how other people cope with problems that I never had.
- Pain or suffering?
- I also joined a group chat (and watched a few others) on grief. It's not that I feel I need it -- but it's good to check/question your assumptions. So I do them anyways, and joining let me know that I am WAY ahead of most -- not that it's a race, or there's such a thing as "winning", Just I was not having the problems that the vast majority went through. (Or I had those things as a fleeting thoughts, but stopped them before they metasticized). And I am learning things by listening.
- A widowed friend said basically, 'I envy you, you have no suffering'. I was a bit defensive/offended ("Don't deminish my grief or love for my wife!" is the first thought)... and explained all the pain and suffering in my past that enable me to cope so well with this (this ice-cream headache of the heart fucking hurts). And without knowing the differences in the terms, I did get some of it correct by accident. But the group chat I had let me know what the terms meant in the context of grief and how to use them better in the future. Megan Devine (Author specializing in Grief) explained that:
- Pain is the natural reactions caused by the body/brains reaction to loss, and the direct hurt caused by the loss of a spouse -- like the heart rate example or cortisol or the physical hurt/ache that manifests.
- Suffering is caused by others judgement, expectations, toxic interactions with people (often intent on helping, but actually forced isolating you or hurting). By projecting their expectations and good intent, "You need X", they often force you into isolation or a negative spiral that you're trying to crawl out of. - or - Suffering is the self inflicted doubts/rehashing of events, anxiety, fear, and isolation, self-punishment that goes with grief, but is an indirect reaction to the reactions of you being "different" and a widow.
- These are unforced errors that you needn't deal with... but are subjected to or subject yourself to. And on that he was right. I blow off others mistakes who don't know better (so their errors don't usually stick, even if they sting). I can adapt to their ignorance/bigotries and not take it personally as I get their intent isn't malicious. And I didn't make many of those self-induced mistakes or I start to self-correct out of them pretty quickly. So lots of pain, lots of suffering in the past -- that past suffering gave me wisdom and strength on how to avoid suffering in the present. Most of the long grief is caused by suffering, and hopefully, I can remain nearly immune.
- Cortisol? Sleep and double vision -- examples of pain discussed in one of the forums are things like weight loss/gain, lack of motivation (depression), fucking with sleep patterns, and some bizarre ones like one of the people complaining of double-vision.
- Holy shit, I'd gotten up too quickly not a couple hours earlier, and for about 2 minutes, I was seeing double. I was starting a panic cycle, "did I tear a retina (other friends had that recently), having a stroke?". I'd never had this before. I could cover one-eye or the other, and see fine (I did quick tests). I could speak clearly (at least out loud to myself), no droopy I could feel. I slowed my heart, pressed on both eyes, and something reset and it all popped back to normal. I thought, that was freaky... if it happens again, I'll talk to a doctor/opthomologist. Then I went on and was in a group chat a couple hours later and find out it's a symptom of grief stress? Have to keep an eye on that (pun intended). I can intellectualize (Spock) my way out of a lot of stuff, but then pure physical things (like that, or tracking my heart rate at the time of Melissa's death) are still there. Yup. Still human, even if I'm able to control it better than most.
- I am controlling most of the other symptoms -- weight loss was intentional. I'm distributing calories throughout the day, just eating lighter meals. I'd done this on Optavia/Medifast, but I'm not doing carb denial (ketosis) as much this time, but trying to keep high protein to prevent muscle decay, and so I'm shedding weight in a controlled way (a couple/few lbs/week), and I'm working out more; it gives me something to do and releases good chemicals and is self improvement (turn a negative into a positive). The people having issues are refusing to eat, not eating with the same frequency just lighter, and they generally are laying around.
- My motivation is high; knocking out errands galore and making progress on paperwork, accounts, work-work (I'm still attending meetings and knocking out things for work). I actually want to do more to de-Melissa much of the house; not running away from her (still love her and want some important momentos forever), but more towards the future I have to exist in. (Making the best of it). But I'm slowing the process, and waiting on most of it until after the memorial visitors.
- Sleep patterns? Yeah -- I had controlled that with NyQuil (and Tryptophan + Melatonin) for a few weeks, and was getting 7+ hours. For someone that normally gets 6, that's not bad. (Retaining motivation and not dragging ass all day). But NyQuil stopped working for a couple night -- so I stopped taking it for a few more. NyQuil may not be "habit forming", but I'm still too much a control freak to just trust the labels. So I've been doing more like 4-5 hours, then a flurry of activity (like writing this), then a 1-2 hour nap/snooze before my swim. Too much processing makes the brain hard to turn off.
- So cortisol (stress hormone) is letting me know it's there. But so far, I seem to be managing it.