Blind Panic

My friend Susan commented on my blog a couple of days ago, making reference to the earlier days of her grief.  She was worried about me and wanted to see how my feelings now compared to her feelings just a year after losing her daughter, Catherine.  I was glad to see that she felt that her own blog from that time reflected many of the feelings that I am having.  I felt sufficiently intrigued to go back into her archives and read some of her old posts.  I was also looking for recognizable feelings.  The way she expresses herself really resonates with me, so I had a feeling that I would find something familiar and I did.  What struck me most was her ability to so succinctly put a name on the feeling I have had ever lessening doses of since about two weeks after Maxie's death - "blind panic".  BLIND PANIC.  For the first six months after Maxie died, I felt completely panicked all of the time - all day and all night.  It never relented.  It never slowed down.  It felt like being on a freefall roller coaster with no bottom in sight.  My soul was climbing out of my body.  I could not stand the voices and thoughts in my head.  Adrenaline pumped through my body constantly.  I had no peace at all.  I could not see one minute into the future.  I didn't know what day it was.  I couldn't figure out if I was hungry or tired.  All I knew is that I was devastated and panicked constantly.  I still feel like this a lot, only much less often.  This feeling of blind panic is HELL.

It almost makes me laugh thinking about the impossible expectations put on me.  I couldn't have had a lunch date with you.  I couldn't have paid much attention to you at all quite frankly.  There were a few people who actually came out for Maxie's funeral and left annoyed or angry that I didn't pay enough attention to them - I could not pay attention to anything (most people came for support understanding that we were in no position to do much more than grieve).  Nothing mattered but our loss.  Nothing mattered except that Maxie's life was gone.   I remember a strange conversation with the HR director at my work.  She was gently encouraging me to attend our National Conference only two months after losing my only child.  Staying in a hotel in a city unknown to me, putting on a suit each morning, building relationships with our donors, and making friendly small talk and more weighty issue focused conversation through the day - from early morning until late at night for days on end.  There is no way I would have made it a full day without having fallen on the floor in a complete panic attack.  She promised I could go to my room whenever I needed a break.  I wouldn't have left the room.  I was in a blind panic.  Not sure how I would have ever gotten on the plane.  I remember people coming to visit our home and then leaving, telling Ted that they thought I was bothered by them.  I hardly noticed them - completely blind in my own panic.  I guess they were offended by a woman possessed by complete and utter horror and panic.  People liked telling me about the lessons they were learning from my loss (to hug their children tighter, to live life to the fullest) - a slap in the face - I was in a COMPLETE blind panic.  I felt like a wild beast.  If I were to paint an interpretation of myself at that time it would be wild hair, bloodshot eyes, nerves coming out of my skin, completely naked and freezing cold.  I often shook uncontrollably for no temperature reason at all.  Blind Panic.  Perfect description.

Today I don't feel blind panic all of the time.  Thank god.  I do, however, still feel it intermittently, almost every day at some point, when I think about any of it too deeply.  I mostly just get through each day focused on loving and taking care of Mo, on things that need to get done, on whatever I am reading or watching on television.  I try really hard not to think about my future, about how I will reintegrate with friends or what I will tell people when they casually ask how many children I have, because when I do, I start to panic again.  If I think about having lost Max, about never seeing him again, I feel more blind panic.  The pain never ever goes away but the panic is lessening every day. Still, I never know when it is going to hit.  It hit hard on Monday, while talking to a friend about my feelings of isolation.  It hits hard when our loss feels minimized by others.  It hit hard the other day while Ted and I played with Mo in the baby's room (Max's room, now Mo's room)- looking around at all of Max's things.  It sometimes hits me when Mo receives a present for an older baby or when I see children of about two years old out in the world.

These aren't just words.  This is my best description of how my loss feels.  This blog is full of the best ways that I can think of or borrow from others about how losing Maxie feels.  But words are not enough to describe complete horror, devastation, blind panic, heartbreak.  I stole Susan's words because I know that my words are not even sufficient.  I am just a tale of urban sorrow.  The story of a woman you sort of knew who lost her baby boy.  The friend whose loss makes you appreciate your own fortune.  That in itself is part of what causes me total blind panic.  Maxie's life should amount to so much more than that - so should mine.  Please try to understand.


Susan Ireland said...

I want you to know also, when I looked back and read what I wrote a year or so ago, it scared me to remember how awful it had been then. I don't think you recover in a line - there are always days when you seem to slip back into the mire, but it is easier now in the third year than it was in the second, and the second was easier than the first... even though I still feel I'm struggling... and if you popped round for coffee I would moan at you as well as listen.... I suppose all I'm saying Abbie is take heart... you can push through this. I really believe we can make it. I'm so very very sad and sorry we are missing Maxie and Catherine. It is unfair. It will always be shit in part - but that is not all it will be xx

Jared Brumbaugh said...

Abby, I have gone back in your blog and so many of the words you used in your very early days resonate to exactly how I feel. This is the end of the 7th month and its so true the pain is there like a sharp knife stuck forever in your heart but as far as the panick it has lessen a bit. I have follow your advice and try to be gentle. We miss Jayden and Maxie so much and we will be with them one sweet day. Kira

Glenda Pearson said...

Abby I'm so glad to see you are still blogging. You have a wonderful way with words. My heart hears what you are saying...thank you for sending such love out into the world. I'm so glad to know you~hugs

Cathy in Missouri said...

If I were to paint an interpretation of myself at that time it would be
wild hair, bloodshot eyes, nerves coming out of my skin, completely
naked and freezing cold. I often shook uncontrollably for no
temperature reason at all.

My soul was climbing out of my body.


And no wonder.

Truly, I do not understand that HR director. Do not understand her, do not understand her, do not understand her. The undertow is so dark; things I begin to wish would happen - to her - to force her to understand what you already know.

Maxie, you are the dearest little boy. It is the wrongest of all wrong, wrong, wrong that you are not - right now - laughing and playing with your little brother...trying to make him smile.

Just wrong.

Oh, Abby.

I'm so bitterly sorry. It doesn't make anything right, either, no matter how sorry anyone is. How perfectly, blindingly, absolutely you know this.

Cathy in Missouri