Fighting Shadows


“Rocket ship arms Ishaan! Rocket ship arms,” says his swim coach. And the pain hits me like a tsunami. He doesn’t know. The tears begin to form. I stand up and walk into the bathroom. It’s become the norm. I step into a handful of public bathrooms and in the middle of the unhygienic, I let it go. I don’t cry. I howl. My eyes are puffy. My head feels dizzy. My chest is hurting again. My hair falls in chunks everyday. He doesn’t know.

I’m being crushed from every direction. I can’t breathe properly and my mind is dark and loud and scary. I have compulsive thoughts about horrible things.

“Kick! Kick! Kick!,” says his coach. I am sucked back into the moment I don’t have the strength to be in. My mind doesn’t have the capacity for the simple joy. Guilt laughs at me. And my grief, my heartbreak, came in waves so close together I could barely catch my breath. My heart hurts. I’ve never built walls to protect me from it. There’s nothing to tear down. I’m exposed.  I take all of the deep breaths that yoga and years of therapy taught me to take in moments of high anxiety and yet I find myself thinking of what is to come, my reality, and I sink down further because the world around me just doesn’t make sense anymore.  He doesn’t know. And I am terrified.

“All done!” yells the lifeguard. I stand up, put a smile on my face and he runs to me. His, “Mom, can we go to Dunkin Donuts now,” pulls me into the everyday chores of parenthood.  We buy the donuts and stop at the nearby salad place. I don’t open the door. Because today my grief made me lose my appetite. I’m not hungry. I could just go home and drink a glass of wine instead. Walking back home, I’m in my head, silent. He’s in his own world, swinging from my arms, skipping and explaining to me why The Hulk can probably smash a shark. I’m listening but in pain. There are days when grief sits heavier than normal and in places and times I least expect. “I love you Mom,” he says then jumps over the two steps. And for a brief moment I am pulled out of the dark a little, just a little.

I’m frightened when I have so much to be grateful for. I feel the dark filling in the empty spaces. I wonder if I have always been this way. If anxiety is a kind of default for me. I feel it has grown worse. Like my anxiety really is a beast inside me getting fatter on my fear and insecurity with each passing day.

I feel a sense of meaninglessness. As though I can’t figure out why I do any of this, why anyone does. Days feel repetitive. Routines a curse. I beat myself mercilessly for not doing enough work. For not being excited to create. For being alive with so many privileges and blessings, and not finding it to be enough. But without those routines, the school runs, yoga, running, without these releases my days would be lost to my emotions. How would I manage all those big feelings?

When I’m deep in those dark places they feel endless and inescapable.

I wish I could tell you this story properly, without the fear of hurting others. I’ve written it so many times over in my head. I wish you could understand how hard my heart is broken right now. Mornings are a treasure buried in the night. I know that if I can just hold out until the sun rises it will all be okay. But when morning comes it isn’t okay. The grief engulfs me again.

I am lost in my life. There is a feeling that my toes just skim the surface of my reality. I’m in some kind of limbo. Are these the last weeks before some great wide expanse of unknown? I wish I had some certainty.

I cuddle Ishaan close to my body tonight. I write and write. I count down days.






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