I’m pretty sure I went a little crazy after my sister died.
Not metaphorically crazy or artistically crazy or anything fancy or interesting like that. Crazy. Quiet crazy. The worst kind of crazy. (Okay, the worst kind is the murdering kind. I didn’t even come close to that.)
First of all, I had had my heart broken by a boyfriend just before my sister died. I was trying to work through it, but was already circling the drain.
Then I got my shit together, pulled myself out of the drain and started dating a guy who seemed like a good idea, but turned out to be incredibly useless.
Actually, that is not entirely true. He was a good distraction. But, he was the worst boyfriend EVER. Worse maybe than the one who slapped me across the face once. (I say once, because you hit me, we’re done—and you best be thankful you escaped in one piece. With your nuts still attached.)
The first year with…let’s call him DingDong…was okay…except the first birthday I had with him—the first birthday after my sister died—DingDong didn’t wish me a happy birthday, gave me nothing, and, according to my journal, took me to a chintzy Italian restaurant in Manasshole. DingDong also ignored me on Valentine’s Day. I think Christmases passed without much ado, too. He didn’t show up when he was supposed to and frequently ditched me. I must have broken up with him twenty times in three years, but he always lured me back with tears and promises and “just one more chance, Ang, I love you.”
He was my very own Mr. Big. Like from Sex and the City, but poor and stoned all the time.
Anyhoo, when I read my journal from that time, there is definitely something wrong with me (other than that my sister killed herself). It’s like I am smiling through gritted, clenched teeth, and someone is secretly holding a gun to my head. Or a knife to my kidney. That is how I picture myself writing what I wrote. Grim and determined to Keep My Shit Together.
And I did. For a while.
Then I slowly started falling apart. On the outside, mostly, I seemed okay. But, like my sister was a good faker, I became a good faker. I put on a brave face. I rarely slept, and when I did, I had nightmares. I wandered around the 24 hour Wal-Mart at two in the morning, popped Prozac and Sominex, and stayed in a shitty relationship that made me feel worse than I already did. I didn’t call the friends who could have helped me through.
I started reading the Bible. I was disappointed.
I trudged through day to day life when I should have gone on hiatus, crawled under a rock, sorted my shit out. I should have stopped working, taken a break from NVCC, and I should have broken up with DingDong. I should have sat with my grief, confronted it and all its ugliness. I should have worked through it.
But I didn’t. And it ate me up. Like acid.
My boss at the time was pretty perceptive. Less than a month after, she asked how I was doing, and I said, “I miss my sister,” and she hugged me and said, “Every day it gets easier,” and I said, but it’s getting harder.” And she said:
“That’s because you’ve been putting it off and not dealing with it. You can’t keep it bottled inside and when it comes, you have to let it come. You’ve been putting on a show for everyone like everything’s okay, and you can’t keep doing that.”
But I was dumb, and I didn’t listen. Not for long, anyway.
And here I am now.
Working through it.
Eighteen years later.