June 23rd, 2022

Self Awareness, Discovery and Loss

When I decided to add a blog to my page, I had ambitions of regular updates and using this space as both a place for new photos, and to continue my journey of mental self-diagnosis. Since that attempt life has been turned upside down multiple times and finding the time to relax, let alone sit down and have time to write has been next to impossible. In the 4 months since then, there have been tears of sadness and a few mixed with joy. There has been growth, love, loss, devastation and a crushing sense of defeat.

I started therapy in February. I stopped therapy in March. I love the idea of virtual sessions because human contact, but once a month isn’t frequent enough for me to get the answers that I’m looking for; to give whatever is wrong with me a name(s) so I can further learn how to cope and maybe not hate myself as much as I do. My therapist was great and easy to talk to, but if that’s a path that I choose to stay on (and I hope I do), I need more frequency and the answers would probably come quicker with more consistent, in-person visits.

My 38th birthday was toward the middle of March, so Brittney and I took our annual drive to whatever city or town I found to explore and photograph. This year I chose Manchester and Tullahoma. We’ve been through multiple times and hiked Old Stone Fort Archeological State Park at least twice, but this drive was to find an old gas station sign that I photographed in 2019 and then just drive around and make photos. I haven’t had a birthday that great in a long time. I was able to revisit some old photos and recreate them in better conditions and with better focus & direction and I was able to do it with my best friend.

The next morning, we were awakened by the news that Brittney’s mom, Mary had unexpectedly passed. Brittney was obviously devastated and seeing how bad she hurt when she told me is something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. I don’t ever want to see her hurt like that again. We’re two months post and my eyes still well up everything I think about it. I’ve always prided myself on my relationship with my in-laws and not being the stereotypical partner who hates them. They loved me as their own and I look forward to every visit to Ohio. I not so secretly could see us relocating there one day. I love the area, and I love the concept of an actual working family who mostly live in close proximity who get along and want to hang out with each other.  I hate that her mom will be missing from our visits going forward. I hate that Brittney can’t call her. I hate that her family has to go on without her. With unanswered questions and unresolved emotions.

I won an award the other night in a community photography show and my first thought was to let her know. She championed my artwork and loved showing it off. During the time I was painting she acquired to different pieces that still hang on the wall. She always shared my photos and the one I received an award for was actually her last Facebook post. She loved her family and she loved bragging on them.

We left for Ohio three days later. The ride wasn’t as somber as I thought it would be but we were both tense due to lack of sleep and stress over the entire situation. Frankenstein can’t be left at home for extended periods of time so he was along for the trip, sitting in Brittney’s lap for 10 hours. Once arriving it became extremely clear to me that processing was going to be harder than I thought. I thought seeing her family in a way I’ve never experienced would make it feel real. It didn’t. I kept waiting for Mary to make an appearance and it never happened. I disappeared multiple times to quietly break down by myself, so my emotions didn’t make it harder on anyone else. I spent two afternoons by myself, driving around and taking photos. I’m happy I was able to take the opportunity to clear my head during all the chaos but still felt bad for leaving to go do it.

The next day there was a small gathering for family to say their goodbyes. Quiet and fighting back tears. Standing against the wall knowing I’m worthless in the situation because there isn’t one thing I can do to rectify it but at least hoping that would be what I needed to convince myself it was real. It wasn’t.

Mary was laying on a table, covered with a blanket and wearing a Purple Rain shirt. She looked at ease, like she was napping. As different family members came into the room and started to gather, a lot of sad tears turned into happy stories and memories being shared. People shared their goodbyes as they left and Brittney absolutely broke my heart saying “Love You, Mom” as she walked out of the room. In our 13 years together we haven’t experienced the loss of a family member, especially one as unexpected and sudden as this.

The last batch of photos I edited were from the day after we returned from Ohio. Brittney encouraged me to make stops along the way, and I did, and then had a full meltdown after accidentally deleting 20 or so raw photos from our last stop in Lexington, KY before making it home. On top of our MacBook not being able to handle the workload of my photos anymore, both USBC ports are worn out making keeping external storage connected is a scary task. We have a new computer on order that was supposed to arrive in May. We were notified that due to supply chain issues our system was on backorder and now expected at the end of June. I have a 70gig backlog of editing right now and it’s not even June 1st. It’s been hard not being able to edit while creating new work.

Fast forward to mid-June because I can’t focus on one thing long enough to complete it and my iMac showed up and as of today, I am completely caught up on my workload. It feels weird but ultimately makes we want to get back in the car and keep driving.

A trip I have repeatedly planned on put off finally happened. I went to Cave City, KY. A place I haven’t been for close to 20 years, maybe more, but long before I appreciated the scenery that I do now. I’m working on a blog post outlining that trip but it’s nowhere near being complete. What matters is that I held myself accountable and completing the trip that sparked my joy in wanting to travel and photograph these old places.

I’ve been thinking about attempting therapy again. I feel that each day I become more self-aware of my actions and mannerisms. The way I come across to people and the way I present myself. How sometimes I feel like two different people in how I act, almost like I completely mold my movements and speech to whoever is around me. I just need to give it a name. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me can tell you that I suffer from severe anxiety and depression. Anxiety to the point that I hurt. Most human interaction sets me completely on edge. Exceptions are anything involving my art or job, excluding public speaking. A series of events that led to a series of events led to my current state of depression. These are the obvious. I need someone to sit and diagnose me and further give these things names. I have questions about borderline personality disorder. I have even more questions about adult ADHD and Autism. I have these puzzle pieces that I am desperately attempting to put together and when I do, I feel like it will finally answer a lot of questions.

I’d also like to know how absolutely nothing feels real. Absolutely nothing. Maybe a simulation theory but more of just a there is no fucking way any of this is real. I am not a living being surviving on a rock that happens to be in a certain special radius from its star to facilitate life and I’m sure as shit not stuck on that rock with religious nut jobs and MAGA lemmings who blatantly choose to ignore things like science and their flagrant racism that hides behind the guise of whatever *think* Christianity is or is supposed to be. 

I’ve also been thinking about death a lot and I’m not sure if I can explain how. I have no concept of time elapsed. I do not believe that I am 38 years old. It’s just not possible. I’m not 38 and my dog didn’t just turn 13. I’m sure things discussed earlier in this post help with the surge of thoughts but dying scares the absolute shit out of me. Fucking wild that little ol’ depressed me who spent more time that they’d like to admit thinking about the big “S” would be so terrified of death. Partially because those I choose to keep close to me are few and far between and there is no life without them. Partially because the thought of dying myself because even as an Atheist, I can’t help but wonder if when it happens if it’s lights out for good or do I wake up in an alien land watching alternate universe me absolutely suck at playing video games? As an artist I’m allowed to feel this fucking crazy, right? This means I’ll be super famous after I die.