My (Fake) Funeral November 11, 2009Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness, NAMI, Recovery, Therapy.
Tags: Insanity, mental illness, NAMI, Psychotic, Therapy
My upcoming 50th birthday has been weighing on my mind, but not for the usual reasons. I have no qualms about turning “old”- whatever that means. But as the day approaches, I’m dreading it more and more. To celebrate it would be a lie.
Because the person that I used to be suddenly and irrevocably died last year. It was a slow death, sort of. Or at least the process of dying stretched out for months. The mental breakdown that started in February 2008 began the process of cutting away at the very core of my being, and the medication I began taking in late May 2008 finished off what was left of me. All of what I was is gone, survived by the shell that houses my physical being.
How, then, to celebrate the occasion of the 50th anniversary of my birth?
In my therapist’s office this morning, we arrived at a solution- of sorts. Rather than look at the situation as the anniversary of my birth, I will acknowledge the anniversary in the form of a funeral. It will, at least for this year, represent my death 16 months ago rather than the anniversary of my birth. The funeral will be a ceremony in which my grieving can be publicly acknowledged for what it is: the loss of life. The grief is for the birthday that I cannot have.
I returned from counseling and told my husband that in lieu of a big party, I wanted to have a funeral for my 50th. Not the usual joke-type party where everyone dresses in black and brings old-people gifts. The real kind of funeral. The kind that recognizes the enormity of my loss. I explained that because I died last year (see my blog entry “I Am No More”) celebrating my birthday would be a lie. I told him I’d like just 4 of us, including my sister and brother-in-law and him and I, to go to a nice restaurant, all dressed in black. I said I want a funeral flower arrangement- the kind with the 3 gladiolas. (Did you ever notice that funeral arrangements usually contain those three gladiolas?) One sticking straight up and the other two at 90 degree angles? I told him I wanted one of those. And I want to write my obituary and post it on my blog.
At first, he was in shock (understandably). Then he said that from his perspective, I don’t appear to have changed much. Or at least I have recovered from my psychosis and from those horrible, horrible side effects of the medication I was taking. I no longer believe, sadly, that I am a Mermaid. I no longer have the Parkinson’s, no longer have trouble peeling a banana. I can once again read and write. Getting all of these abilities back after losing them gives the impression that, at least physically, I am back to my old self, whole again.From his perspective, I’m back to normal- more or less.
But it’s really not about how I appear physically to him. It’s about how I am emotionally. And I know that I will never be the way I was. For better or worse, the person that I used to be died. Quickly. Last year. And so for that reason, I cannot in good faith celebrate the 50th anniversary of my birth. My therapist gave me permission to have the funeral. And after discussion with my husband, he agreed that if that’s what I want, then he’s willing to go along with it also. My sister, I must confess, doesn’t yet know anything about my wishes. But I’m sure that she will honor my request.
We will wear black at dinner. I will purchase a funeral arrangement. I will write my own obituary, to be posted on my blog. The final sentence will say: “In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to her favorite charity, NAMI”. Just like the real obituary will say when my shell also dies.
And so we’ll have a funeral. A private funeral, but still a funeral. Because that’s what it really is.