Sorry I haven’t written for a while. Every now and again I try to forget what happened and have a couple of days of peace. There are days when I don’t like to think about Riley, what happened, how my life was before this.

It’s been a long couple of weeks. A roller coaster couple of weeks really.

We had the estate incident which is an ongoing and tedious situation. On the other hand, I drove.

I want to tell everyone, let everyone know. I was excited one day and distraught the next. But I have found it very difficult is to talk to people about what is happening in my life. Everyone has their own problems, their own situations. No one wants to listen to someone go on and on about their own life. There are always people who care and want to help but I feel like I’m being a burden. I’m messing up their life and bringing them down with my own sadness. So for the most part I try and keep it to myself.

But the one problem with not talking to people about it is suddenly you find one person that you are comfortable talking to about it and you latch onto that person and you tell them everything. Every time you’re sad they are the one person you go to. But as time goes past you think maybe they don’t want to deal with your shit but they are too polite to tell you that you need to back off and suddenly you are worried you are becoming the world’s worst friend.

So instead the logical thing to do that your messed up brain of yours decides to do is to not tell them anymore. Just stop talking about it. And instead you bottle it up and you go absolutely insane trying to do right by everyone. It all sneaks up and one day it jumps you. You could be in a meeting, you could be hanging out with friends but wherever you are you suddenly feel like the most alone person in the world.

You sit there staring blankly into space wondering what you did to deserve this kind of misery and what you could possibly do to fix it. But the fixing it seems like the kind of thing you would put in the too hard basket and never speak of it again.

Do you continue trying to sort out your life or do you sit back and sulk and hope that everyone else will help you through this. Do you continue talking and potentially risk people becoming tired of your problems or do you stop talking and let it slowly ebb away at your heart?

If you have been sitting on your stuff to the point where it’s starting to hurt, it’s time to let it out. How you choose to do it is up to you (try boxing? Just remember to hit soft stuff, not a wall), but just keeping your pain inside will eventually lead to some kind of a mental breakdown. I know you don’t want to look bad in anyone’s eyes, being vulnerable is such a big thing in this society.

But talking about it can help shed light on how to get through a problem. Brainstorming with another person will help you find new ideas to help you move forward. When you know someone has your back, that emotional support can make all the difference.

I latched onto a couple of people when Riley died. People I would not have expected to. I found a lot of time people latch onto someone older, someone who seems more stable, more in charge of their lives. And that’s what I did. I talked to this person when I felt like the world was against me, when I was stressing about my depressed friend, I asked him what I should do to help my friend. This poor lad thrown right in the deep end, we hadn’t even talked a whole lot before the death of Riley. We all need people to talk to, people to lean on when we aren’t strong as one would say. If we don’t have the love and support we can accidently try and deal with our pain and suffering in more unhealthy ways. For example using something external to distract us, is a common tactic for dealing with all kinds of emotional issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s movies, alcohol, chocolate or people etc. By focusing on something else we can avoid focusing on the emotional discomfort and pain we are trying to avoid.

So using my own life as an example, I ignored dealing with my issues by binge watching shows, spending half the day in bed, and going out shopping. Thinking those things would help with the giant hole in my heart, (Spoiler alert, it didn’t).

So we have to continue doing everything and talking to everyone about anything other than what is happening, but then there is cutting yourself off from the world, doing everything to ignore the situation and this is called avoidance behaviour.

Avoidance Behaviour; a pervasive pattern of avoiding or withdrawing from social interaction; a defence mechanism by which a person removes himself/herself from unpleasant situations

So in my case, I had:

  • latching onto people and talking to them so I didn’t feel alone,
  • talking to people about my friend’s issues so I didn’t have to talk about mine,
  • and completely avoiding all social interactions so I didn’t have awkward conversations when people found out about me being a widow, the awkward conversations when people asked how I was actually feeling, and the awkward situations where people look at and talk about me from afar.

So for a stage I ignored the world. I mentioned it before, I didn’t leave the house, I hated the world, and I hated myself. Because what you might not realise about avoidance behaviour is it causes anxiety to snowball, because when people use avoidance coping they typically end up experiencing more of the very thing they were trying to escape.

For example, every time I got off the phone to one of my friends or got home after a day at work I felt even more alone than when I started the call or left for work. It’s a very short term solution, and will become less effective the more your use it in the hopes of avoiding the pain. Instead you have to face your issues, big and scary as they are, or you will end up bottling it up and avoiding it until one day you will realise you have spent a solid section of your life trying to ignore the loneliness that has crept into your life, and you look back and realise you have lost so many opportunities due to your own fear.

So how do you deal with something so massive? First thing is what you’d expect. You have to acknowledge that yes, this is an issue. You must comprehend what is happening and why it is happening, and you need to express your emotions. Whether to a friend, a family member, or a trained professional.

One way that has been suggested that can help with avoidance behaviour is exposure therapy. This is a technique in behaviour therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. It involves the exposure of the patient to the feared object or context without any danger, in order to overcome their anxiety and/or distress. For example, when I didn’t want to face the world, people would come around, they and I both knew if I had enough I could ask them to leave and they would. The environment was familiar and I was comfortable. With the help of my friends (not without incidents) I was able to leave my house again. I was able to go to parties, and after a lot of issues I was able to tell my story and deal with the awkward conversation of what happened with no tears.

It was extremely difficult and took a lot of time and creative thinking on how I could tackle the exposure within a safe environment. Something for you to think about. For spiders and the dark it’s a lot easier to create a safe environment than with social interactions, but with time and effort it is possible. You should discuss it with your doctor to make sure it’s right for you, etc.

Riley-5426

Riley and I on his favourite day of the year. Thanksgiving. “You get to eat like it’s Christmas but don’t have the hassle of buying gifts!”

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