A Heavenly Brunch

A blue and red cardinal zip by my bathroom window as I drop my toothbrush in shock. A new sighting after a few weeks of not being visited. I chuckle as I wash my face and think, “For two guys who hated each other in life, they sure do spend a lot of time with each other in death.”

Life comes with unexpected curveballs. Time doesn’t wait until you’re well-adjusted to bring tragedy to your doorstep. And when both of your college sweethearts die in the same year, you develop interesting coping techniques to manage the new normal. Including believing that the souls of said former lovers being reincarnated through two uniquely colored birds.

When Harrison died, my best friend told me I’d see red birds, feathers, and pennies as signs from him on the other side. I never believed in angels, ghosts, or spirits. As a child, I was drawn to talk shows that hosted a weekly psychic or medium. I hung on to every word of the hosted mystic as they relayed the words of the guest’s dead loved one.

“How could someone be so desperate for something that they ignored all logic?”

I thought as I rolled my eyes at the tearful guest. I was sure that all the events were staged. There was no way that anyone would believe that a living person could connect with the dead, grieving or not.

I found myself that desperate after I got the news that Ben died. My quarter life crisis was off to a dashing start. Most girls I know married the guy they spent more than two years with in college. While I was dealing with funerals and wakes; my peers were looking forward to wedding bells and the pitter patter of tiny feet.

Which is cool. I had already decided long ago that I wasn’t going to be anyone’s mama. I also made up my mind that I was going to buy my own damn diamond and keep my damn own name. I was, however, envious of the clear lack of tragedy in the lives of others.

I had wanted all those life events before with both Harrison and Ben. For different reasons and in different spaces of my life of course.

Harrison is my foundation. Our love story was my first and dearest. We shared my first two years of college together.

My relationship with Ben was a lesson. A lesson about the negative consequences of low self-worth and hero complexes. I truly should have stayed friends with Ben. Our worlds collided after a drunken night of divulging our shared ills of being one of the tokens in our predominately white fraternity and sorority.

Each of these men were fundamentally different people. Each of these men taught me integral life lessons.

Each of these men hated one another.

A fact that had me constantly exchanging the stroking of one ego for another. I often laugh thinking about the hoops I jumped through to assure each man of their place in my life. Much to Ben’s dismay he often lost battles and ultimately lost the war to Harrison.

Ben had an unfair life. His perspective of women had been marred by abandonment, the cruel words of high school girls and college peers alike. I had taken it upon myself to “fix” him; which turned out about as great as you can guess it could’ve.

Time had moved on.

I lost touch with Ben after an explosive end to our often tumultuous relationship. I had gained the confidence to stop allowing myself to be a verbal punching bag.

Harrison had a new love, a Ben of his own. And this time I found myself losing both the battles and the war. I was devastated, yet I deserved it. Karma had made me eat crow many times in life before. After fighting tirelessly, I choose to bow out gracefully. I prayed and waited for time to be on my side again.

In the interim, I had decided to focus on myself. I had been in relationships for four years. College was over, and it was time to transition to a new beginning. Harrison and I were still best friends despite the ire of his new lady. I had blocked Ben after a failed attempt to get me to “catch up” with him at his hotel room while in Dallas for business and I had restlessly settled into my post-graduate life.

I was working at my dental job for about a year when I’d gotten the text from Harrison stating that Ben had tried to contact him while in DC for business. We laughed on the phone for hours imaging the scenario of the two sitting down for a cordial meeting with each other.

” You guys should totally have brunch and talk about how much you love me!” I stated excitedly as I giggled awaiting his witty response. I was ecstatic to hear from him. Calls and texts came less frequent during those days; so I savored every conversation I had with him.

I craved laughter and no one makes me laugh as much as Harrison does. I can still feel the rush of excitement I’d get when I saw that name flash across my iPhone screen. My cheeks would pang with soreness for hours after our conversations, a never-ending smile would grace my face as I recalled particularly funny bits of dialogue.

I recall that same conversation as I stare at the red and blue bird splashing together in the newly installed fountain of my current boyfriend’s backyard. Time has brought more change. The second anniversary of Harrison’s death has come and gone. The first anniversary of Ben’s is steadily approaching.

“Good morning Harry, Good morning Benny

I greet the cardinals as I load my coffee pod into my Keurig. I smile as I sip on my caffeinated beverage and ponder when I became the illogical person who believed in signs. I shake my head and place a kiss on my boyfriend’s forehead on the way up to the office.

I have a long list of tasks to complete for the businesses.

My new normal makes me lean on my imagination often. When I dreamed up this life for myself, I had no idea that it wouldn’t include either of these men. My identity had been crafted by my relation to both for so long.

I am navigating what life means when you lose two people that mean that much. I am coping in ways that may seem strange to outside perspectives. I am finding confidence in this journey. I am finding hope in this journey.

I am finding logic in the illogical, with two unlikely guides.

That calls for a heavenly brunch indeed.

For Harry

Happy Birthday my beautiful babe.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)

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Damn I’m Depressed

I have always considered myself to be a pretty happy person. As a child, I was always able to find the bright side of any situation that was keeping me down.

As I got older it seemed my mood and emotions were not my own anymore, I couldn’t find it within myself to be happy anymore.

My junior year of undergrad is when my issues came to a head. My parents split, my grandmother died, school was a struggle, and I was socially ousted by a group I thought were friends and sisters

The circumstances were dim but my best friend Harrison who encouraged me to seek help and fight to see the good in life again. I had never been to a therapist before, I was ignorant to why I would need one and how much it could help me. My university offered free sessions to students, so I signed up with a little push from Harry and my world was opened up. I had no idea I could feel a release from the burden of constantly having to appear strong and put together. I had been broke in a lot of ways but I started to piece my life back together and make it my own again.

When Harrison died, my world crumbled again. The first couple of months I cried every hour, I didn’t eat, my body hurt, my heart ached, and I was having severe panic attacks every day. The pain I experienced was like none I’d ever been through before. I couldn’t see the purpose or joy in life anymore.

Depression is weird. That’s an astute observation I know but I’m not speaking to rocket scientists here, (although some of you may be) I’m speaking to regular people who are processing trauma and coping. Depression for me meant losing the colors in my life. I was born an artistic soul with an imaginative mind. When I tasted a sweet for the first time pink stars danced behind my eyes as a savored my treat. Every monumental life juncture had been associated with a color after Harrison died there were none. I had danced with depression before but this felt like something else entirely. I never knew I could experience such despair.

I had wrestled with my mom and primary care doctor about seeing a psychiatrist. Although I had seen a therapist in the past, I saw no point in even trying. I had banished myself to a life of grey.

Moved by the symbolism of Harrison’s Birthday; I had gotten the courage to reactivate my Facebook. I read our old messages that were full of encouragement, wisdom, hope, and adoration for each other. Those messages also mapped out our vision of life together and although I had no power over those dreams diminishing. I could still be successful and live out the dreams I had for myself, and he had for me.

Not long after that when I scheduled my first psychiatry appointment and was formally diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. I am now coming to grips with the fact that I have depression. Every day is a new battle but I have so guardian angels on my side how could I not win.

 

-Shampaigne Graves, CPC Creator of The Healthy Shampy Blog (2)