4-2 If You are New Here; or Welcome to My Shitshow

I started a new job a few months ago, which has led to a lot of new Facebook friends and new people reading my social media.  If you are new here, this is a synopsis.  If you have been following the shitshow all along, there shouldn’t be much to surprise you.

On April 30th of 2017, Jason was killed in a car crash.  It was his birthday.  He was the love of my life.  He was my partner.  We served in the Peace Corps together, we trained in acro together, we had built a life together.  We’d just bought a house and I was a year from finishing my masters.  We were hopeful and optimistic about our future.  Between one breath and the next he was gone.  He was declared dead on the scene; I was transported to HCMC where I spent 3 days not being allowed to move for fear I would increase the damage to my body.  When I was released from the hospital, I went to my mother’s house.  I’ve been living there since.

I spent that first summer just trying to survive.  On doctor’s orders, I dropped out of grad school.  I didn’t take any performance gigs.  I cried on my way to work, worked all day, cried on my way home, and spent the evening closing out Jason’s life.  It is incredibly difficult to legally die in this country.

In August, I got the call saying that they were charging both drivers involved in the crash that killed Jason.  I was in court almost every other week from September to October.  The first driver took a plea deal in September or October and is serving 90-something months in prison.  In November, the second driver was allowed out of jail on the caveat that she meet certain requirements of the court.  She wanted a trial, so the trial date was set for May.

I went back to grad school in September for a residency at Hennepin Theater Trust.  The folks there were welcoming and understanding when I had to leave to go to court, or deal with some other piece of Jason’s death.  I did my residency around the freelance gig work that I was trying to pick back up.

Just after Thanksgiving, I had an MRI done on my shoulder.  It had been bothering me since the accident.  I tore the cartilage in my shoulder joint.  This isn’t really anything to be done about this injury, beyond a ton of PT to help stabilize all the little muscles around it.  I’ve been doing that, but it is one more reminder that my life has been irrevocably changed.  And it has prevented me from being able to do a lot of the circus training that I enjoy.

In February, my grandmother had a stroke (maybe, we aren’t sure).  She was in an assisted living facility in AZ, but they weren’t equipped to handle her new needs.  After a month of bouncing in and out of the hospital and my mother and I going back and forth to AZ, we moved her to Minneapolis.  She now lives in a dementia unit and doesn’t leave her wheelchair.  She doesn’t usually recognize me, though sometimes she knows I’m family even if she can’t figure out who I am.  Other times she thinks I’m a new staff person.  I’m glad she’s here; she’s getting excellent care from her team and we visit her regularly.

I wrote most of the body of my master’s thesis from a hospital room in AZ.  But I did write it.  And I turned it in the 2nd week of April.  I defended it the 3rd Saturday of April.  We should have defended the final weekend, but I asked my cohort to change our defense date so that I didn’t have to defend the day before Jason’s birthday.  I owe them all a debt of gratitude for that change, as well as for the support they offered me during that year.  I graduated in June.  I was the speaker at our graduation. 

Two weeks later, we found out my mother needed a quadruple bypass.  In early July, she had open heart surgery.  Luckily, she doesn’t remember a lot.  I do, and I still wake up and check to make sure she’s breathing at night.  This is what grief and loss and anxiety does to a person.  My brother came for a week to help when she got out of the hospital, which was infinitely useful.  I was booked to work 14 hour days that whole week.

She has made an amazing recovery and spent the winter shoveling snow.  Now she’s spending the spring making maple syrup and hauling buckets of sap a quarter of a mile every weekend.  I’m glad her new plumbing is holding up to her idea of “normal use.”

In late August, I developed symptoms of Lyme’s Disease.  I went in, and got in treated.  At the same time, I talked about depression and anxiety.  The doctor put me on anti-depressants, which my therapist had been encouraging me to do for months.  Me being me, I immediately had weird reactions to the combination of things and felt like it was raining on the backs of my hands for 3 weeks.  That stopped when I finished the course of antibiotics for the Lyme’s and the antidepressants have been an improvement in my life. 

In September, I got a job at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul.  I am now the Technical Director.  The job has been a lot.  I didn’t fully understand what the state of the theater was when I came on board, so my learning curve has been steep in a lot of directions.  I’ve been working ten hour days on the regular and 60+ hours weeks aren’t uncommon.  I’m still hoping that there are signs of change and that this job will not be this way forever.

I started exhibiting signs of Lyme’s again a month or two ago.  One doc thinks it’s not Lyme’s, another thinks it is.  No one knows why I hurt and no one has any answers for me.  They also can’t explain my continued weight gain or mood tanks.  (I’m getting a bunch of tests done, so I don’t really need advice on this front.  We’re working on it.) 

When I say I’ve had a rough couple of years, this is what I’m talking about.  Around all of these major disasters has been a host of minors ones – fender benders (with bonus trauma trigger), deaths in my family, deaths in my friend circles, and a constant sense that I can’t get ahead of it.  I’m beginning to believe I’m cursed.

I’m also grateful to the people who have supported me.  It has been a rough couple of years and I don’t feel like I have been able to show up for others in the way that I would like.  Together, Jason and I used to be a rock in our communities.  We were stable and supported others.  Now, I need all the support being offered to me, and I am so grateful to the people who continue to offer it.

In those moments between things when my brain is at rest, one of the images that constantly creeps in is of a person collapsing and a dozen hands surrounding them and pushing them back up on their feet.  It’s like a dance.  They collapse over and over and the hands keep catching them and supporting them back to standing.  Sometimes my subconscious isn’t very subtle.

Leave a Reply