Hi. Hello. Let’s begin with: I am one of very few people you probably know who at my age have not lost someone very close to me. I have never lost a friend or a relative unexpectedly. I have been spared that trauma for 44 years, and I know how strange that is. I talked with a friend on Saturday who shared with me that she is in the same situation — she is two years younger than I am — and we both realized that people act as if we are some sort of misfit. Some people get angry at us. Some get so confused and caught back up into their own grief that they don’t know how to continue the conversation, and somewhere, somehow, we know that we should not argue with this emotion. Your grief is your grief is your grief.
So, I will say it again:
Until Coco died, I had not ever lost someone or something so dear and crucial to my heart. The grief has attempted to dismantle my life.
I think it’s clear now? Yes? If it’s still hard to grasp I will allow you some time.
In addition to clarifying that specific point I have some important things to share with you.
First, The Superficial.
Over the next week I’m going to feature some pictures of my home on Instagram and they include things a few of you have asked about already:
I print out all of my Instagram photos through a service called Social Print Studio. I am not affiliated with them in any way. They just reproduce the best photos from my Instagram account, and I now have a running scrapbook of my life. Hundreds and hundreds of photos of my life, our life. They are so good at what they do, and so I ordered these frames to put around the house so that I could change out the photo whenever I needed to.
Here is a sneak peek of next week, a small corner of my portion of the closet:
Next. A bit more about grief:
Yes, I lost Chuck. People keep bringing up his death as if it was the same. He was the dog. Google DOG and his photo will pop up with either spaghetti on his snout or his body sitting upright in a chair next to my desk ready to take notes on my computer. Marlo’s ultrasound is hanging on the magnetic board to the right. There’s a photo of my dad there directly above Chuck’s right paw. A photo of my dad a year before I was born. Imagine seeing this as a meme. He’s an official meme. You’ve seen these images stolen and reproduced as memes everywhere.
Oh look! I have those photos right here! They are mine. All mine. He was my dog. And as much fun as it is to see people celebrating his mythical talent, sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it strangles my heart. Because he died in my arms. He took his last breath while lying in my lap, my hand cradling the right side of his head.
SO. You are demanding to know why Coco’s death has been more devastating? Why have I been so wrecked?
People who are so eager to diagnose me with a personality disorder don’t seem to grasp that her death is the greatest loss of my life. This is the loss that is defining grief for me, defining the shape it will take for the rest of my life. Not Chuck’s death, no. Not by far. And he would be fine with me saying that. He’d be like, SHE CAN HAVE THAT AWARD GIVE HER ALL THE STARS PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE I AM FINE HERE WHERE YOU CANNOT ATTEMPT TO BALANCE AN INSTANT POT ON MY HEAD YES I SAW THAT COMING GET OUT OF HERE WITH THAT SHIT.
He didn’t want it. He washed his hands of this life and was gone. I hold nothing against him for that. I wanted to grant him that.
The grief I have experienced over Coco’s passing shattered my life. I had no idea that it would. I did not see it coming. I was so clueless. I knew we had to make a very quick decision to put her down, but I had no idea in the world that in the very hour and then hours and then day and then days and then week and then weeks after her death that I’d be so confused and shaken and filled with body-racking guilt and sorrow and, my god. I miss that dog. I miss her dearly. It ravaged me. I had no idea that her death would do that and I still feel so guilty.
You think you’re reading mania? I know. You think you’re reading mania. Oh, you.
You’re reading grief. Such unbridled and unexpected grief.
I have battled insomnia since Leta was a baby. Some switch in my head got smashed and when I checked myself into the hospital with postpartum depression my psychiatrist — the same one I still see today — essentially treated me for insomnia. And I immediately got better. He changed my medication when I underwent the treatment I wrote about in my book because insomnia was a huge factor in that depressive episode. So, I happen to have a very deep and educated understanding of what insomnia can do to your brain and the havoc it wreaks. I have lived and breathed it, I have suffered and been destroyed under its demonic threat.
It’s insulting when supposed concerned strangers express that the insomnia I am experiencing now is indicative of a personality disorder. I thought that by sharing my grief I would find relief in shared stories—and I did THANK GOD FOR YOUR SACRED SOULS, I love you all dearly — but then I’d stumble yet again on someone telling me YOU ARE SICK IN THE HEAD. Over and over and over again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
I knew that when I wrote certain sentences about my grief that people would diagnose me without knowing a single fucking iota of what I’m going through, but I wrote those sentences anyway. Most people wouldn’t write those sentences knowing that those people would do exactly that. And guess what those people did. Yep.
They did exactly that.
I am the writer who will write those sentences knowing people will disfigure my entire existence.
This is the first time in my life I have ever lost someone or something so dear and crucial to my heart. The grief has attempted to dismantle my life.
People seemed to have missed that part. I’m not sure how they missed it.
Except, I think they wanted to skip over it to transform me and prove that I am a monster. To turn me into something they know I’m not but they so eagerly want me to be. I know they did. You can claim concern. You can. But none of you who have done it publicly have shown my grief the humanity it deserves, the grief anyone’s humanity deserves.
My grief will take forms I do not yet know, but I have come so far since she died. Yes, I have not been sleeping like I should. But I would suspect that this happens to a lot of people when experiencing the most significant loss of their entire lives.
Coco was the most significant loss of my life. Are we clear about that? Again. One more time for those in the back: This is the biggest loss of my life.
So. Here we go. Are you ready? There is some swearing ahead and I do apologize in advance. I’m not manic. You can diagnose me as such, go ahead. You will anyway. But the truth is, I’m irritated for someone who has suffered like I have, someone who has yet to find solutions.
I know that my gut issue last year was methane SIBO. (Here’s a primer, the details are boring).
I saw an integrated doctor who charged me a mortgage for a consultation she said would last 90 minutes. Instead, it lasted less than a half hour. I paid for a SIBO test kit that I was supposed to take home, administer myself, and then send into a facility that would then send her the results that would cost me another $600. And then guess what? If it was positive? Thousands of dollars of three different antibiotics for six to seven weeks.
That wouldn’t wreck my entire body at all.
Three different antibiotics for almost seven weeks? That’s like signing up for a Disney Princess Cruise in the Caribbean. THE FUN TO BE HAD!
I had spent months and months AND MONTHS reading about this issue on message boards and so many people said they’d tried the treatment and came out of the other side feeling worse. Everything I had tried — so many, many, many supplements and dietary changes and STANDING ON MY HEAD — made me feel worse. It made my condition worse. To simplify all of it, here: drinking water made me bloat to the point of thinking my stomach was going to burst open and that I was going to die from a ruptured organ.
Eating food? My stomach was a twisting, distorted and distended nightmare I hope no one ever has to endure.
Pete came home one day and said, “I was on a random message board and some dude said this thing decimated his methane SIBO.” That was all the comment said.
That. Was. It.
That was it. Nothing more. That’s all the comment said.
And I started to sob. Because I did not want to try anything else. I. WAS. DONE. Everything I had tried up until that exact moment made my condition worse. I didn’t want anything else to make me feel like eating food was the end of my life, but he made me promise as he wiped the tears from my eyes that I’d give it at least three days.
It cured my gut issue.
In three days.
It wiped it out.
If you suffer from methane SIBO — and again, I am not a doctor, please consult one, but I saw three different gastroenterologists last year and paid for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy and NONE of them could offer any solutions other than medications that cost $450 a month.
Look up Cordyceps Mushroom supplements.
This is what I take every day:
I stopped taking all other supplements they recommend for methane SIBO and this is all I take now. Three Cordyceps Mushroom supplements in the morning, then several Chinese herbs whenever I eat, they’re called Huang Lain Shang Quing Pian.
That’s it. I am so mad that more people don’t know about this. It wiped out my gut issue. It’s like someone came in with a Sharpie and drew a giant X over “Everything That is Causing Heather’s Stomach to Churn Like the Cogs in a Watch Accompanied By Crushed Glass and Acid and Make Her Feel Like She Is Dying While Wide Awake.”
Water intake is my only issue now. I have to be vigilant about hydration. But pain? I will cry as I write this, and no. I’m not manic. But please do diagnose me.
That mushroom supplement gave me back my life.
Pete Ashdown gave me back my life.
And so. We now segue into The Mania That is Heather Not Sleeping Because She Has a Personality Disorder.
Last week I asked Pete if he’d read anything about a mushroom that helps sleep. He googled a whole bunch of shit in less than five minutes because that is his jam and he was out the door. In less than 30 minutes he’d returned with a tea. And, my god. I slept four nights in a row. Straight through. Deep sleep. Wonderful, reconstructive sleep.
It’s called Four Sigmatic Reishi Mushroom Elixir:
And last night when I woke up at 3AM I’d already made a plan: headphones next to the bed, music on the ready. I listened to A Winged Victory for the Sullen for 45 minutes and had visions of parts of my past, visions of part of my teenage self that I did not realize was still terrorizing me, and then I fell back.
I fell back.
My body fell back into that giant black expanse, and right before the black calm took me I turned off the music and fell asleep within seconds.
And I was not mad. I was so peaceful. I had no idea I could be this person. I was not this person. Who is the person?
Mushroom supplements saved my life and, hell, they are the frontier of potential help for mental health. I know this for certain. For certain.
I held both of my beloved dogs in my arms as they died. Both of them. I held them as they died. And through meditation I was able to stand next to the countertop on the island in the kitchen where both boxes of their ashes sat. I looked down at both of them, AT THEM, my two dogs. And I grinned. Because they will never leave me. They guide me every minute of the day.
Chuck likes to poke people in the butt and encourages me to do so. He is very convincing. Coco? She has a library of knowledge to teach me. It’s almost overwhelming. But first and foremost? She wants me to be prepared for the grief that is yet to come.