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The Dark Days

We all go through things that fundamentally change us. Life has many ways to drop us to our knees. I've experienced it many times before, things that hurt. I lost important people before. I lost my dad to a terrible infection he suffered with for three years. By 2020, he'd been gone seven years, but our little family hadn't fully recovered, I don't think.

In 2020, I lost my mom, my best friend, to cancer in the middle of a pandemic that absolutely caused things to be missed and dealing with medical places to be a major challenge. I lost my aunt, my dad's sister. I lost my business - art is non-essential. And my husband of 28 years moved out 2 weeks after Mom's diagnosis.

His leaving was no surprise, but his timing was just another hit to deal with. I had asked him to work with me to improve our communication after something that happened at the end of 2019. If he wouldn't work with me, we needed to part ways because I simply couldn't keep going as things were. He chose to go. I place no blame, but it was a blow at such a miserable time.

I stuffed it down, told myself it was a good thing, and it was good that I didn't have to worry about laundry or a meal he would like or any number of any other things, while I helped Mom. I existed to be there for Mom, but I stumbled a lot. My girls, suffering too, picked up my slack.

On November 9, Mom died at home, and everything in me shut down. I'd been her main caretaker for three weeks, determined to keep her home where she could have visitors and the comfort of home. I didn't sleep much for those three weeks. For two of those weeks, she was bedridden, unable to talk. I did my best to guess what she wanted and one of the last things she said was that I was doing pretty good at that. We had an extremely close relationship. No one knew her better than I did.

I felt like I lost everything I identified as - no longer a daughter, no longer a wife, no longer a working artist. I was still a mother and I clung to that. but my girls are adults and I just felt like a burden. I couldn't go anywhere or do anything. I remember some of the happenings after, the wake, funeral, so much stress considering we still lived in a world of fear. All the financial dealings my daughter handled. She was an essential worker and was out anyway so she handled the lawyers and all. I couldn't think clearly enough to do anything.

By the start of 2021 I was angry that I couldn't snap out of the darkness. I couldn't make myself do anything. I didn't care that my house wasn't clean. I didn't care to cook anything. I didn't care to even get out of bed many days.

But why? I wondered. Mom and I had many long talks about everything. She didn't want to leave me and the girls, my three adult daughters, but I assured her we'd be all right. And now I felt guilty because I absolutely was not all right.

I couldn't step foot in public without panic attacks. I was a zombie, going through motions. My girls kept me fed, and kept major things around me tended. I couldn't even be a good mom for them.

I don't remember what happened exactly. It was some screwed up bill that set me off, I couldn't deal with trying to fix the problem and I fell to my knees screaming in my living room. I couldn't take anymore and it was that moment with thoughts in my head that I realized I felt worthless because 28 years and I was still just a person to toss away without even a tiny bit of effort.

That's when I realized that was the biggest thing still crippling me.

I sought help and it was determined that a service dog would be a good fit for me. I was also told that I had suffered a lot of traumas all at once. For a while I didn't see why that was a big deal. I just needed to toughen up and deal. But I couldn't. I couldn't make myself do anything. I couldn't even think coherently.

In March of '21, I brought home a puppy as my service dog prospect. Because here in the states, owner training is viable, and much more affordable. I chose a little dog for many reasons, but mostly because I wanted one easy to keep inconspicuous in my art booth if festivals were ever allowed to happen again. I did a ton of research, decided what tasks a dog could do to help me, and a small dog would be able to do those tasks.

My kids took me out to the breeder I'd been in contact with and I came home with the 3.6 pound puppy. That was the very beginning of the healing.

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