Someone recently commented to me that they were glad I was “doing so much better”. It struck me as a rather odd statement coming from someone who doesn’t know me very well and for the fact that it implies that I was doing poorly and there was some visible improvment. To be fair, I had a very rough fall. However, I look at pictures and think there isn’t really a visible difference between the week after my mom died and the month after. And as for my mental health, I can tell you, nothing has changed. I’m not coping well at all. But I must be, right? Because this (basically) stranger has seen some visible change in my state of being. This brings about a remarkable case of anxiety. It makes me think that maybe they saw something that day that I was doing right; something that made them more comfortable with my grief than previous. I can’t figure out what exactly I did that day to warrant that, so I stress about it. Am I failing to do better now because I can’t repeat that moment of betterness? It also brought about intense guilt. Surely I should not be doing better, right? Mourning is forever. And if someone sees me in a state of improvment? Well, that implies that I’ve somehow failed at the mourning process, right?
I wonder daily what I could have done differently to prevent my mom’s death. I wonder if I had stayed, would she have woken up? Could I have said goodbye better? I wonder what people think when they look at pictures from September and I seem “okay” in them. Because I do. I look at them and I know that that was the day I had a 45 minute meltdown on the balcony of a hotel in Albuquerque. Or that was the day I slept on a friend’s couch, unable to move the grief hurt so bad. I see the smile and I see the tears buried underneath it.
I guess, I look okay. I look like I’m doing better. But I’m not. The pain isn’t as intense, I’ll grant that. But I can see all the ways I’m broken compared to the person I was this last summer. I can see it. I feel bad for anyone who knew me then and knows me now and hurts because of the difference. I feel sorry for anyone who only knows this me; this is a sad and angry version of my old self. And it hurts to be told to heal. Or to see the relief when I don’t cry.
I’m not doing so much better. And believe me, I wish I was.