37. Sorry…I can’t talk right now.
There were times over the eighteen months before our first trial where I just had nothing to give anyone other than Brad and our girls.
I could go to work, take the kids to their appointments, cook dinners and play up the illusion that I was keeping it all together, but the reality was, I was walking through life with a weighted belt on. On the moments I allowed myself to, I did feel quite desolate. Keeping up the appearance of okay was exhausting and by the time the day was finished. I was done.
This was a difficult time for our family and friends who lived away from us. Though they wanted to be supportive, I just didn’t have the energy to fit them into our world sometimes. If they weren’t here in our orbit, there were times that I couldn’t make room for them. My intention was never to hurt them, but everything felt like it was moving in slow motion, so when they would call to see how we were, there was nothing new to report. Nothing that they could help with at any rate.
There wasn’t anything in me that was resentful that our family and friends weren’t here. It was simply that the system works at a snail’s pace and having to constantly talk about what was not happening was frustrating. The waiting was taking its toll on all of us and to have to keep telling people that nothing was happening was monotonous and irritating.
I found myself avoiding phone calls, not returning text messages and cancelling plans.
I remember on the morning of Brad’s Christmas Party in 2014 I told him that I just couldn’t go. He was a bit shocked. I was the social one. I was the one that kept the conversation flowing and enjoyed catching up with people. On this day, I just couldn’t do it. I distinctly remember saying, “I just can’t pretend today, so please don’t make me”. It was the first time that I’d said out loud to Brad what we both knew, that our life was beginning to feel like a sham. He took the girls to the party and I stayed home and did nothing. It was a bit liberating.
There was a point that I was starting to feel guilty about avoiding people, particularly my family. I sent them a group message:
“I’m sorry that I haven’t called you back. I just don’t have anything to say at the moment. It’s not personal. I’ll call you soon. Please understand that I just need time.”
That didn’t sit well with some of my nearest and dearest. The phone calls and messages possibly ramped up instead. Bless their hearts! I just stopped answering and returning them altogether. I had nothing to report, and they had nothing to say that was going to improve our situation. Being stubborn is a family trait it seems.
My youngest sister loves hard and fiercely, but don’t cross her, or stuff with the people that she loves…she’s one of the most loyal people I know. She can be relentless when she is determined to be heard- has been this way with her family since mum bought her home. She kept calling until I answered. She opened our conversation with:
“Oxygen mask on a plane.”
I thought she had gone mad…it seemed to be catching. I asked her to please explain. She went on to remind me that when the hosties on a plane give the introductory safety instructions at the beginning of a flight- they always remind parents to “fit your oxygen mask first before attending to your children”. You can’t help them if you’re dead. The analogy was a very good one and became a mantra of sorts.
I think it’s really important for the supporters of people living through an experience such as this, that sometimes, there just are not any words. In our case, we had to keep busy. We had to keep moving forward, because looking back was just too horrible. We lived day to day without being able to make any plans because our life was out of our control. But, we wanted our children to know that life would go on and would not be defined by their experiences- even when it was so very difficult.
When people would call, with the best intentions and ask us, “What have you been up to?”
The answer was always the same. We were in a holding pattern. We were waiting. We were getting up and moving through a life that we never expected to live, waiting for someone to tell us what the next moment would be for our family.
I remember someone in the early days saying to me that we should try not to “live in” our experience. It was a throw away comment from them; an unintentionally insensitive and naïve line from someone who didn’t understand that this was our reality. Waiting for court for as long as we did, meant that we all in some ways had to live in a victim state until we could move through to the next stage of healing. And until then, there wasn’t really much to say.