I’ve been back to work three days now. The morning of the first day, this past Monday, I don’t think I truly slept. I remember being in this weird state of being asleep yet also awake; I’m not sure how to describe it…I know I slept for a few minutes here and there, but I remember everything about that night. I can’t tell what was a dream and what was real, but I remember that whole night. I remember lying in bed, after taking my sleepy time drugs (because I can no longer sleep if I don’t have something to shut off my mind). Usually, when I take my little helpers, it takes them about an hour to kick in, and then my mind and body enter into this nice, tired, it’s hard to keep your eyes open, state. At that point, I crawl into bed and escape into the comforting embrace of the dark oblivion. That didn’t happen the night before returning to work. I laid there, for hours. I felt that same comforting “tired” I always feel, but my mind just WOULDN’T shut off. I kept reliving what I now just call “that night”. It played over and over. I kept flashing back and forth to happy memories with my Brandon, I kept seeing his beautiful, smiling face. I kept seeing how he always looked at me with such gentle and complete love in his eyes. And then I would see “that night” and how his face looked then. I’d see the blood.
I fell asleep for a little while somewhere in all of this, and the next thing I remember is bolting awake because it felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. It was beating so furiously, just like a bird against its captive cage. I couldn’t catch my breath…and I felt so cold, so cold. I remember thinking about what my first day back at work would be like; I imagined myself walking down the familiar hall, past the break room, the bathrooms, the lockers, to the lab. I imagined the pity and awkwardness in everyone’s eyes. I imagined not being able to hold myself together and just collapsing on the floor and sobbing. I imagined feeling like the walls were closing in on me, and I think this is where my little panic attack came from. I glanced at the clock. 3:15am. I still had a few hours before the alarm was going to wake me, just like it has dozens of times before. In the old days, I would snooze a few times, grumpily get up, feed the cats, send Brandon a text because he had already been at work for hours by this time, shower, get out, hear my phone buzz with a text from him. I would go, read it, feel so damn happy, send him something back. Get ready for work, leave, park, send him a final text of the morning, and go to work.
“Good morning, boogums!” I would say.
“Hi wife!!!” He would write back.
“I love you :)”
“I miss you!”
“I miss you, best friend, I can’t wait to come home and kiss you!”
“I love you husband!”
“Aww, I love you wife!”
“Hi wife <3”
That routine is gone now. I will never again hear my phone buzz while getting ready for work, because there is no more Brandon to send me sweet little messages in the morning, because he knew his baby hated mornings, and hearing from him always made having to be up that early somehow better. I thought about all of this while lying there at 3:15am. Brandon should just now be getting up and getting ready for work. In another 40 minutes, he’d come around to my side of the bed and give me a kiss before leaving. Except this morning, I knew Brandon didn’t get up to go to work, he wasn’t at work right at that moment, he wouldn’t be at work when I got up, and he was nowhere. And I cried, I cried because I would never again live that life. That simple, comfortable, boring life. At that moment, I felt so paralyzed, so TERRIFIED of going back to work, to what used to be so normal, leaving this new existence of mine within these four walls…and going out into the word, when I still felt so broken, so vulnerable, so exposed. I think I fell asleep here again, because the next time I glanced at the clock it was closer to 5am. That panic came back again, and I actually reached for the phone to call my boss and tell her that I couldn’t come back today. I cried more. I hurt more. I hated my new existence. I cursed everyone and everything for having to feel this way. I realized, at that moment, that sooner or later I would have to come back to that place, to pretend to hold it together, to fight the tears, to ignore the pity in everyone’s eyes. Hiding from it for another day would do nothing to avoid that reality. So I didn’t call. I fell asleep again. My alarm went off, the cats got excited about the idea of breakfast, I got up, I went about the routine. My heart ached because I couldn’t pick up the phone and send Brandon our routine text message; he wouldn’t answer. So I left the phone on the bed while I went about getting ready. I cried in the shower. I haven’t been eating much at all, and it was hard for me to keep standing up.
I just felt so exhausted, emotionally, physically, mentally. But I got ready to go to work. I went. One of my coworkers put me to work on simple things that first day, because it would “help me get back to it”. I used to fly through work, but that morning, I felt like I was walking underwater. I kept wanting to cry; I fought it. I did the routine. I forgot simple things I used to know. I made mistakes. I was slow. I kept looking at my phone as it played Pandora, waiting to see that flashing green light that meant Brandon had texted me something. That flashing green light never came. Not seeing it was another stab to the heart. So this was it. My new existence. This is what it’s going to be like now. How terrible. At lunch, I went outside and mostly stared at my food. Food doesn’t taste like anything to me. I don’t want to eat it. I have to force myself to eat the little bit that I do. I went outside because I couldn’t imagine sitting in the break room with the others, listening to the normal conversations, going through the normal motions, when NOTHING is normal anymore. So I ran outside.
In the three days I’ve been back, I have yet to eat in the break room. I just go out to the car now and cry. After the half hour, I pull myself together again, walk back, and do the job. While at work, for moments, brief moments, everything feels so normal again; like nothing has changed. And then I remember. And I want to die when I do, because work then brings me no happiness, not like it did before. Before I would be excited to come home and tell Brandon about my day, about the new thing I learned. There’s no one to tell now. That realization makes me profoundly sad. There are many times at work that I will think of something, or even look outside at the sunshine, and think, “Brandon will never see this day. Nothing that happens to me from now on, he will never know any of it.” During those waves, I have to bite my lip and fight the tears. I avoid people’s eyes. I don’t really smile or laugh anymore, not like I used to. I feel like a ghost of who I used to be.
I used to look forward to 5pm…5pm meant I got to clock out and head home…call Brandon as I was walking to the car. I now hate 5pm…5pm means I walk to the car alone with tears in my eyes and an ache in my chest. The closer it gets to 5pm every day, the worse I feel. I think I may have small panic attacks between 4:30 and 5. I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME. I don’t want to clock out. I don’t want to stop doing things. I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to pull up to the house and not see Brandon coming out with a smile on his face to give me a hug and tell me about his day. I don’t want to go upstairs to an empty home…a home that echoes with so many happy memories. I don’t want to open the door and see the cats run up, greet me, and look behind me, waiting for their daddy to be there. It’s just me now…and they are still waiting to see him go through the door. Going home hurts so much. Going home used to be the happiest part of my days, and it now rips open the scab over and over again, making it bleed.
I don’t feel joy anymore. Things that used to make me happy make me profoundly sad. I got an email from Harney & Sons about a spring tea sale they have going on, and where a month ago that would cause me to go to the website and order tea that I don’t need, it now makes me cry and ache…because Brandon isn’t here to scold me for buying more stupid tea that I don’t need. “Why did you buy more tea? You have years’ worth on the shelf already! Drink that first!” He would say. I can buy all the tea in the world now and he will never know now. And I don’t ever want to order tea again.
Cold, sunny days used to make me happy. Now, they anger me. How dare the sun shine and the birds sing when my Brandon is dead and will never again get to see it? How can the world go on like nothing has changed? EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. NOTHING IS THE SAME. The world should be dark, gray, and stormy, just like I am inside; not sunny and normal.
Maybe it’s just my new perspective in life, but couples are EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. I see them no matter where I go. I hate them. Seeing couples is just another punch of reality – I used to be a part of a couple; I used to have someone to hold my hand, open a door for me, laugh with me, look at me and smile. I hate them. I realize that they have done nothing wrong, but I still hate them.
I still don’t understand what is happening. I don’t understand how Brandon can just not exist anymore. My mind doesn’t understand. I find myself asking every multiple times a day, “How is it possible that Brandon is gone? How can he just be…gone? I don’t understand how he doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t understand.” I’m so afraid of the moment when I actually, truly understand.
Every day that I get up and go to work, I want to die. I just want to die. I don’t want to live like this. No one should have to live like this. I don’t remember what it feels like to be happy. I don’t remember what it feels like to laugh and mean it. I don’t remember how to find joy in simple things. I used to pride myself on always having the “glass is always half full” attitude no matter what. Now, everything is empty. There is no joy. There is no sunshine. The sun’s warmth doesn’t reach me. I want to die. I just want to die. I don’t want to live like this.