Saturday, December 1, 2012

Dissociative Identity Disorder: Losing a Loved One

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Hello Otherbeasts. I'd like to talk today about having DiD and what happens when confronted with losing a loved one.

My grandfather was admitted to the hospital about a week ago with pneumonia, kidney failure, and a couple of other complications. Now, my grandfather is a fighter, he's 94 - he's had at least 10 or more strokes and a slew of other illness - and he's kicked every single one of them in the butt. However, when my mother first informed me that he was being rushed to the ER, I felt something different - somehow I felt that wasn't just another run-of-the-mill ER stint and he'd be complaining in a few days about not being at home and wanting to go home, giving the RNs a headache in the process.

Well, this past Thursday was my grandfather's 95th birthday, the day before he had been sitting up, eating, laughing, and even singing love songs to my grandmother. And even on his birthday he was in good humor and it seemed like things were taking a turn for the better, he was on antibiotics, etc.

So yesterday morning, I awoke and sent a text message to my mother to see how my grandfather (our family name for him is "Daddy-daddy) was doing and instead of a text message back, my mother called me. No, no, no, no, no, no... no. I picked up the phone and she informed me that Daddy-daddy was suffering from acute renal failure and that they were going to release him and send him home with hospice care - and that it might be 3 hours, 3 days, or 3 weeks that he would stay with us. The moment I heard her voice break as she said, "it's just a matter of when," my emotions choked off and shut themselves up. It surprised me because I expected to feel this overwhelming sadness... but instead I just felt a deep sense of melancholia. A few moments later as I was telling my mother I would be praying and that my grandfather was a fighter, my own voice broke and tears began to stream. I just knew that this wasn't a good thing... I had to prepare for the worst... I had to prepare to face the music if he lost this battle.

The emotions I went through that day were absolutely mind-reeling. I wanted nothing more than to sit on the back porch, surrounded by my garden (my grandfather and I used to sit outside and just observe nature together) and take in everything: the sunlight, the breeze, the sound of the leaves skittering across the pavement, even the way the air smelled. One moment I would feel the enormous amount of peace settle over me but then I was flung 180 degrees and the sadness would grip at my heart, causing a painful lump in my throat as tears welled in my eyes and spilled over onto my cheeks. When I was in full swing of a crying spell that same tranquil peace would suddenly invade and steal over me. This altered back and forth for about two or three hours, just ricocheting back and forth between emotions. To quote Sylvia Plath, "I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between."

I was stuck in the madness in between. About the onset of dusk that peace had won out over the sadness. I had finally come to terms with that death might greet my grandfather as an old friend would - I reasoned that he had live a good, long life of 95 years, 72 years married to the love of his life, my beautiful grandmother, 6 successful daughters, 15 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren...a large family which continues to grow. I felt peace.

Finally, this morning came with confusion... I awoke around 5 or 6am, much earlier than usual, and in a panic checked my phone: no missed calls, no voicemails, no texts, nada, zip, and zilch. I went back to sleep for around 3 more hours when my mother's ringtone shatters the peaceful sleep I'm in... NO, NO, NO, NO, NO... but I answer to hear her voice cracking on the other end, "Mija, I'm sorry, but Daddy-daddy passed away this morning... " The rest of it fell on semi-deaf ears as the truth rang around me. My grandfather had died. He was gone. I hadn't gotten to say goodbye. My mother informed me she was carpooling with two of her sisters to get down to the valley as soon as they could to make arrangements and that she'd send for my dad and I when things were in order. I tried as hard as I could to console her with anecdotes and quotes but I'd choke myself up in the process and a barrage of sadness would assail me. In the middle of all that sadness it was like something would swoop in, interlope, and the sadness would vanish. How was I suppose to grieve when my DiD was mistakenly trying to protect me; the sadness would become too great, I would be thrown out of the driver's seat and into the passenger's, and was left to wonder madly how I would handle this.

My grandmother passed when I was 12 -back in 1996 - and I felt sadness then, I even cried at her funeral. But I wouldn't go to my grandfather's funeral in 2005 nor my uncle's the next year... I couldn't handle the emotions. Here I am facing another funeral and I've decided to attend whatever service will be held in my grandfather's honor... but facing it with DiD could be the craziest thing I've attempted in my life. What I suspect is that when confronted with the real truth and depth of his absence, my DiD will step in, take over, and I will be watching from the sidelines yet again. It might be awkward because I may be the only one not shedding a tear and instead quietly observing. I worry that bottled up emotions may threaten to break me, but I know my Dissociative Identity Disorder will more than likely stop that from happening, and I'll be at the funeral devoid of emotion... people might wonder what's wrong with me, if I feel anything, etc.

Of course I feel everything, I feel it just like any normal person, but akin to feeling water through a film of oil; feeling but not quite feeling as someone else might. But I feel it all, whether it's behind the scenes or in company that I trust, I just have to feel it when it comes... even if it is erratic and wild... such is the bondage of Dissociative Identity Disorder.

So today has seen me ricocheting in between the madness again, crying one minute, laughing the next, feeling nothing in the other. I probably seem out of sorts to people without DiD but for me, it's the only way I can, and know how, to handle the emotions flying through me today... the emotions I will feel tomorrow, the day after, the day of the funeral, or even years from now. Right now though, I am exhausted. Emotionally exhausted. I'm too tired to cry or even to smile. Or maybe my DiD has interloped again, but to me it feels like exhaustion.

I am grateful for the last memory I have of my grandfather. My wonderful boyfriend J had traveled to the valley with my parents and I for Thanksgiving last year, and on one of the final nights I begged him to sing "El Rancho Grande" by Roger Creager for my grandparents. The song is a Spanish one and while J doesn't speak or understand a lick of it, he had phonetically memorized the song and could sing it with perfect diction. J was so reluctant to sing, but he swallowed his pride and stood up to croon "El Rancho Grande." Not long into the song, Daddy-daddy joined in and began singing with him, followed by my mother and then my grandmother, and of course me on the chorus. We wrapped up the song with yips and gritos followed by a lot of clapping. My grandfather was so overjoyed that he shuffled his feet on the floor while remaining seated in his recliner, to which he spoke up and announced in Spanish that he felt like dancing, to which my grandmother replied in Spanish, "Well, get up and dance then." Which was a funny family joke at the time because Daddy-daddy had a hard enough time getting around his own house, let alone dancing. Women in my family are awesome. But through all of that my best memory is seeing them smile, sing, and even shuffle-dance... all because my sweet J sang them a song in Spanish. I'll cherish that memory forever.

Until Next Time,
<3 Shade


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