Fake it Til You Make It and Get a Dog

This week is three months since everything happened, and it’s also Valentine’s Day, and my birthday. It’s a lot. But then, I’m a lot.

I came back from winter break and threw myself into everything with gusto. I committed myself to everything that came my way. I signed up for extra classes and extra activities. I go out when I’m invited. I avoid saying no to anything if I can help it.

I can feel myself vibrating. I don’t sleep well because I go to bed after long days of running around and my mind is still spinning. I laugh too loud and too often. I talk too much and too fast and I can’t stop myself. Everything about me is elevated. The good, the bad, the ugly.

It’s almost as if I’ve convinced myself that if I don’t stop moving, if I just keep moving and talking and going and going, I don’t have to live in my own head. I don’t have to remember the things I remember.

That would be great if it were true.

Instead, I get hit in the middle of class. Breath knocked out of me. Tears welling as I feel my entire body flush. I remember his eyes. I remember when I realized there was nothing I could do. I remember hoping I was wrong, that I had somehow missed something, and then realizing an ambulance never came and that I had been right and that I never wanted to be right again.

The grief has lessened, I think. But grief is normal and standard and I have grieved before and I will again. I watched my grandfather die in college. I noted his last breaths after we took him off the respirator. I cried and mourned and healed. This is not that.

I think, to a certain extent, the part of me that has always smiled through pain has taken over. No person in their right mind wants to see someone else suffer, and the last thing I want to do is make people feel like they are putting up with me because I am sad.

Instead, I overdo it, and now my subconscious is telling me people are putting up with me because I’m too much.

It’s similar to depression in that I’m compensating, but different because I’m not really faking it. I’m happy to be with friends, almost too happy. I’m even okay when I’m alone because I have a dog now, and she makes me laugh and smile.

But I quickly become overwhelmed and when I become overwhelmed I also become overwhelming. As my voice rises in volume so does my anxiety and I feel that everything I’m saying is wrong and that no one wants to hear me speak.

This is, as we say, sub-optimal.

Still, I know it’ll keep getting better. I’ll keep getting better. I have to. I don’t have any other choice.

I tell people my dog has helped me. She’s done more than that, I think. She’s saved me.

My friends are amazing and wonderful and they got me through the grief. But I’ve had friends my whole life, and I’ve had depression for most of it. The problem with friends is it’s easy to convince myself that they’d be better off without me.

My dog, however…

I have to get out of bed in the morning because she needs to go out. I have to go for walks and get fresh air because I want her to expend some energy and practice her leash training. I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour because she tells me when it’s time.

Even as I sit here, body aching from constantly being tense, chest tightening from all that life has thrown at me, mind racing from all that is to come and that could come, my heart is lightened by the strange magic that is my dog.

This sounds insane, I think. But it’s true. Just watching her breathe as she sleeps fills me with a giddiness that relaxes me ever so slightly. I can’t ever be mad at her. I love her completely. And I want to be here, with her.

I can’t replace the people I’ve lost. I can’t rebuild my blind trust that universe is fair. But I can love, and I do, and I am so glad to know that hasn’t gone away.

So I will keep working on myself. And try to forgive myself. And hug my dog.