On occasion, Pink Sweatpants will be posting to my blog when it comes to topics that aren’t related to the GF-CF diet. Since I’m a squirrel, issues that are not food-related are of no interest to me.
What a crazy week. Every other weekend, Jack spends time in Maine with my brother, sister-in-law, mother, and step-father. Last weekend was one of those weekends. When I dropped him off on Saturday I told my brother and sister-in-law that he had been acting strange. And by “strange”, I mean . . . calm. More like a typical kid. I knew something had to be wrong. Sad, but reality. So when my brother called me Monday morning to tell me that Jack was vomitting uncontrollably, I wasn’t all that surprised. More annoyed than anything, because Jack is ALWAYS sick. Immunity testing. Allergy testing, both blood and skin. You name a test, he’s already had it done. So this is just what we’ve come to know as “Our Life”. I talked with my mother on the phone and since Jack was vomitting relentlessly, they couldn’t drive him back home. So we decided that I would drive up to Maine and spend a few days til he got better. Unfortunately, only Dave’s Work Car was available for me to drive up to Maine, and since Dave would be needing his Work Car the next day I couldn’t drive up to Maine in that. Usually I would have Canyonero (our Expedition), but Dave had driven that in to Boston with a bunch of our friends who were running the Boston Marathon. (Can you figure out where I’m going with this?) So as a compromise, my mom made the 2 hour drive from her house to pick me up, then made the 2 hour drive back to her house with me so I could spend a few days. (Yeah, she’s a pretty awesome mom) In between catching Jack’s vomit in a towel, I was checking Facebook for photos from the Marathon that my husband or his friends may have posted. Before I saw any photos, I read a post from a high school friend on Facebook that read “Sick to my stomach. Watching the news and FB looking for updates from friends that were at the marathon today OMG.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! WHAT HAPPENED AT THE MARATHON?! My mom puts on the news and we watch the story unfold. Before I even had the chance to text my husband, I saw a Facebook post from one of his friends that said they were holed up in the basement of the Apple Store, but that all of them were okay. I texted my husband and he said he was fine. I just assumed that he was in the basement of the Apple Store with our other friends. I didn’t find out until later that he was at the finish line and saw the whole thing happen.
Our friend Michael had just finished the marathon 3 minutes earlier and had yet to run back over to them (his wife and my husband) when the first explosion went off. Michael’s wife, Jenny, thought he had died. Thankfully, Michael was fine. He’s a nurse, so he was helping a man into a wheelchair who had just had a leg blown off from the blast. Michael’s mother, father, sisters, and the rest of our friends were far enough back from everything that they weren’t in any danger. Police stopped them from getting any closer to the scene, so they were left to assume that everyone near the finish line, including their son and daughter-in-law, was dead. It was several hours before everyone was reunited.
Once I found out my husband and all of our friends were fine, I went back to worrying about Jack. Little did I realize that “all of our friends” included my sister. She lives next door to me and had probably told me a million times that she was going in to watch the marathon. In one ear, out the other. I completely forgot. My mom and I found out she was with my husband at the finish line so she was safe, but we also knew that there would be some serious emotional fallout from the whole event. My sister is more sensitive than she realizes, despite the fact that she’s a nurse and a carpenter. (Yes, you read that correctly.) My mom and my sister talked on the phone for about an hour, and once I heard all of the details of what they had seen, I realized exactly how traumatic that day was for everyone, even though they may have walked away physically unscathed. They saw the blood, the gore, the dead. It was going to take them time to process everything they had seen. The emotional fallout probaby wasn’t going to be immediate.
I worried about my husband because, well, because we’re Irish. And the Irish way of dealing with traumatic events is to pretend they never happened. It’s a method that’s worked for us for centuries without any repercussions, right? My father is the quintessential Irish Dad. He’s 1 of 11 children, Irish Catholic from Boston, and looks like “if Larry Bird and Ted Kennedy had a baby”, so yeah, SUPER Irish. How my mother and he ever got together is something I’ll never understand–my mother deals with stress by talking about everything, no matter how inappropriate. Meanwhile, my father deals with stress by talking about NOTHING, no matter how appropriate. My sister and I take after my mother, which I’m sure is a challenge for my Irish Dad. Irish Dad WANTS to know what’s going on in our lives–the good and the bad–but sometimes when the news is REALLY bad, he needs to hear about it in stages. His girlfriend is a huge help when it comes to this. Step 1: “So “Irish Dad”, have you heard about what happened at the Boston Marathon today?” Step 2: “I just want you to know before I tell you the rest of this story that your daughter is okay . . . ” Step 3: ” . . . but she was at the Boston Marathon today . . . ” And it’s at that point that I imagine my Irish Dad just shuts down. Usually he hears the first 30 seconds of whatever you’re saying. Any longer than that and his ADD gets the better of him. The rest of what happens is usually adorable, because you can tell he’s TRYING to help, but he just “can’t go there”. Discussing “feelings” or “emotions”? It’s as if you’ve asked him to run to CVS and buy you a box of tampons. The conversation is just SO awkward for him, which I find really endearing. Because he’s trying! So my sister ended up talking to Dad the day after the marathon and she came over my house to tell me how the conversation went. We were both cracking up laughing! She tells Irish Dad “the basics” (like, how a 5 year-old would describe the events–“It was scary and there were loud noises and people were running and I was afraid, but then I was okay.”) and then as serious as can be, he gives her his best advice: ‘You know sweetie, as hard as it is to do, you’ve just got to do your best to forget it ever happened. Just block it out of your mind.’ Followed up by ‘But if you ever need to talk about it, call me.’ Say it with me, people: “Awwwwwwww!!!” So adorable. A+ for effort, Irish Dad!
I asked my sister if she’d write an entry for this blog, describing what she experienced that day. I knew she’d NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS agree to do so, but I figured it would be therapeutic for her and it would help other parents whose child just got a diagnosis of autism. How so? Well Jack’s diagnosis left me shell-shocked. It’s like I could see the writing on the wall, but I just couldn’t comprehend it. It was something so foreign and unexpected to me that my brain couldn’t process it. My sister’s experiences at the marathon that day were very much the same. Grief is grief. It doesn’t matter if it’s the result of a traumatic event or a traumatic diagnosis; it can be paralyzing. Not talking about it or remaining in denial of it will only backfire and keep you from moving forward. You don’t need to block out events to get over them. Trust me, I’ve seen this backfire in a BIG way! You need to talk to someone about them so you can come to terms with them, move past them, and view them in a different light. I’ve been in therapy for nearly a decade and if you’re not in therapy too, I ask “Why not?” Especially if you have a child with disabilities. Especially if you suffer from depression and/or anxiety. WHY ARE YOU NOT IN THERAPY?!
I love being Irish. The stereotypes? They’re all true! Irish Dad is proof of that!
But the Irish way of dealing with grief–denial, denial, and more denial–isn’t working. It’s harmful to you and to your family. Seek professional help. If you need medication to deal with depression or anxiety, ask for it! It may take a few months or even a few years to find a combination of medications that works for you, but don’t give up! Medication does NOT turn you into a zombie; it turns you into a better version of yourself. You won’t become that glassy-eyed mom playing the violin in the “We Didn’t Start the Fire” video (at 2:03)–that lady freaks me out!
So grief can be good. Let it out, talk about it, get help. We’ve all been there. Some of us are “there” right now (myself included). There’s no shame in it. Well, unless you’re Irish! But your Irish family is going to talk about you regardless, so suck it up and get yourself some help!