The one where Shannon writes again, about death and tattoos

This post is going to take a minute to get to the point, but it’s been a while since I’ve written, so I imagine it will take a while for me to find my groove again.

I’ve been struggling with death lately. Death, loss, and trust. If I’m honest my depression has been kicking my ass for some time now.  This is normal though, I know how to handle it, but it’s kicking my ass hard core.  Because of things going on around me I’ve been struggling with trust, with losing people, the desire to simultaneously cling on to everything and try and save people, while distancing myself from anyone I could possibly lose.

My cat got taken by a coyote roughly 50 days ago and I’m bummed.  I’m sad on a level I didn’t know I could be about a cat. My husband brought that cat into my life about 30 days before my whole world turned upside down, and I’ll be honest, loving that little cat during that time is all that got me through.  Less than two weeks ago my life turned upside down again, this time I have no cat.  I’ve never felt more alone without that little guy purring at my feet.

When my birth dad committed suicide I was young. Twelve years old isn’t old enough to comprehend suicide.  In fact I’ve told you all before that at first I didn’t believe it. I knew my dad had drug problems, so I created a whole story in my head that he probably owed someone money and had decided to hide out for one year.  After one year he would come back, he would be wearing an all white suit with his hair extra long, blonde and wavey, see me and say, “I’m back princess, everything is okay now, I’m so glad you knew I would never leave.” Some of this fantasy was created by the stories I had heard from family who didn’t know I was listening.  About the stories my dad would tell while he was using meth. Stories about the Hells Angels coming after him.  Smashed car windows. People following him.  Stories I all believed to be true.  I laugh now, now that I’ve spent a decade dealing with a chronically addicted meth head, and I’m old enough to know that the meth spun stories of a junkie are all fiction. At twelve years old they sounded very real, and very serious.

I saw him everywhere that year.  A substitute bus driver, walking down the road, or a guy in the grocery store. When the year was up and he didn’t return I was sad. I processed it as I could at 13. A few years later around 14-16 I got a better undertsanding of it. Of loss, of suicide, and it felt as if I was processing it all again.  He left me.  If you want to trace back my abandonment issues you can trace them back to the entire four years of high school.  I was at the same time worried every boyfriend would leave me, while making every possible effort I could to MAKE them leave, so when they did there was a tangible reason.

When I turned 18 and my grandma died, my axis shifted. I felt her death in a way I can never explain.  I was old enough now to understand loss. My heart shattered.  I couldn’t sleep, I would stay up all night at my new house sitting outside in the dark on the curb of my house lost.  My insomnia had been bad before, but now it was completely unmanageable.  I was awake until 3 or 4 am when I would finally pass out until it was time for school or work. Processing her death made me reprocess my dads. Now I was mad. He killed her. She died of a broken heart. He didn’t only leave me, he left her too. My last years with her were changed, different, less fun because being with her was never the same after he died. She was always sad. It hurt her to look at me, Rickies little girl, because I looked like him.  She was carrying the burden of the secret of knowing where my brother and sister were, but not letting me know at their mothers request. I blamed my dad for ruining my last years with my grandma.

Then I got married, and had kids.  At that stage, as a new mom where you can never imagine leaving your baby, I processed Ricks death again.  HOW DARE HE! How could he have left us, I could never leave my babies.  My anger turned to rage.  Bitter rage.

Close to 10 years later, when I was in what I considered the best part of my life, I had a wake up call.  I had lost all the weight, I was running, I was fit and healthy, and in the best mental spot of my life.  Then I had a surgery that put me down for 6 weeks, and during that time I went into a full clinical depression.  Later we would learn it was a result of stopping my 6 day a week exercise routine cold turkey.  I distinctly remember sitting on my chair downstairs in the new house, looking up toward my boys room and thinking, “they don’t need me.”  I rationalized it all.  They needed a mom who was always nice. Who had her shit together. My husband needed a better wife. They would get a ton of life insurance money, Rob would eventually remarry, and the boys would get a normal mom, with a brain that didn’t function like my damaged brain.  Immedietly I recognized these thoughts were wrong, I got up off the chair and went back to the gym that day.  However, in those 7 minutes of thinking, I processed Ricks death again.  I was now at an age where I could understand him.  I could see that he never expected me to not come out on top. He knew he was leaving me with an amazing step father. He knew I had family to take care of me, he knew I would get his social security for a few years, he knew I would be fine.  So at age 33 I processed forgiveness.

One year after this I had another major loss.  Someone I cared for greatly took their life, making it worse is that I found the body.  For the rest of my life I won’t be able to get that visual or smell out of my head.  Here I went processing death again.  Another suicide, anger, forgiveness, and unbearable sadness all at once.  It’s been hard. That creeps up on me daily, and takes my breath away. I miss him. I look around the things he did at my house and miss him. I tell stories about him and miss him. In fact there is a guy at my gym who resembles him so much in stature, hair color, facial expressions and voice, that I sometimes forget for just a second that he is in fact gone.  I had to process not only his death, but Ricks again.  This is two people who have left me, what is wrong with me, why do they leave? I imagine at various other ages and life stages, I will again have to process the deaths in my life again.  Each new year of life, brings with it a different level of understanidng and comprehension.

Seven months later and one day before the anniversary of Ricks death, just after getting the cat, everything in my life turns upside down.  I spent nearly a year lost, confused, angry, and back to the belief that everyone hurts you, everything ends, and no one can be trusted. I couldn’t shake that feeling no matter what.  I still can’t. I’ll never talk about it here beceause the fact is, it’s not my story to tell.

With time things smoothed out. I opened up some. For about 10 months things had been good.  I had my cat, I had been making friends, and I was building trust again. I was living again.  However, such is my life a series of unfortunate events occured to ruin that.

1. The junkie I had worked so hard to help get clean, stopped being clean.

2. A person I considered a friend, turned out to never be a friend at all.

3. My cat goes missing.

4. My second job really really lets me down, breaks promises, and leaves me standing alone wondering how in the heck this happened.

5. The mess from late 2016 returns.

So here I am pulled in all directions. I’ve shut down deeply. I know loss is coming, and I want no part of it, so the solution is to put distance between myself and everyone else so I’m not hurt when they leave/die/lie. I spent a solid 2 months struggling with one final attempt at saving the drug addict in my life, and walking away. Walking away means that I spend every day worried that if he dies, it’s because I gave up too soon.  I have a habit of letting people use me until I’m nothing but bones, because I’m terrified of ever being the “reaosn” someone dies.  In the back of my had no matter how irrational, I will always believe I could have done more to save Rick, and the other suicide from 2016. Once you’ve experienced that, you develop a bad habit of trying to save people, no matter how much it hurts you in the end.  I have no cat to cuddle up with when I’m sad, and my usual safe place isn’t safe anymore.  Between occurances 2 and 5 above I’ve lost trust, and faith in almost everything. I’m sad. I’m lost. I’m having a hard time every day.  I harbor resentment at that friend and my second job. I spend time calculating how long until the next person dies, how long until the next person lies to me, and I feel isolated, shut down, and numb.

There is one thing that always makes me feel better, which is in fact the point of this whole post.  My tattoos. I’m covered in them, and if I had to guess I would say I have over twenty, but I’ve lost count. I get a tattoo every time I lose someone. I get a tattoo when I’m sad. I get tattoos when I need reminders that I’m alive and can feel. I’m getting two tattoos this weekend in fact.  I have had the same tattoo artist since I was 15, Jared.  The tattoo shop is my church and Jared is my preacher.  I tell him a thought, a lyric, a feeling, and I walk in days later to see my feeling right there on paper. I’ve never altered one of his drawings, I’ve loved every one of them.  Those hours with him in the shop are the most peaceful I ever experience. I relax to a level unknown for me.  Recently when he was doing my inner arms I actually found myself nodding off.  This is huge, because, A. I don’t nap ever, and B. I never ever sleep in public. I don’t nap, or close my eyes in public because I can never let myself be that unprotected. I know someone can hurt me if i close my eyes. (I take high powered sleep medicine at night to get over this anxiety). The fact that I close my eyes, and just relax while I’m there with Jared speaks volumes about the amount of trust I have in him.

When I was sixteen, in that new stage of processing Ricks death, I did a stupid thing. I had the freedom to drive, and I drove myself to the department of records and asked for a copy of my dads autopsy and suicide note.  I can never ever stress how stupid this was. If you’re reading this for the love of God NEVER DO THIS. I read things I never needed to read. Combined with the hyper visual graphic I already had in my head of my dads suicide, adding the report tormented my brain for years. It still does. My therapist now says childhood traumas developed the right side of the brain more, which is why I’m hyper visual. I can visualize my dads death so clearly, as if I was there.  I can see him preparing to do it, I can see him struggling during, I can see him after, I can see them breaking in his bedroom window to find his body, I can with clarity see this entire scene, even though I saw none of it.   I can see this visual as clear as I can see the memory of holding my first born the first time.  Which is why I never forgot the part of the autopsy where the coroner details all of my dads tattoos.  I’ve always taken a small relief from seeing my name printed on the autopsy, “Located above the subjects heart is a tattoo of the words Shannon Marie.”

So the point of all this? The one thing I have in my life that can never be taken away is my ink. It will go to the grave with me.  It’s mine for eternity.  When I get a new piece, some people see it as frivolous, but I don’t. I see it as one more thing I can keep forever. One more thing that is all mine, that no one can tarnish. Which leaves me wondering, when my time is up some day, will a coroner detail each of my tattoos? Will he note both of my boys names? Will he note the tattoo that says “Hard Times” for the person I lost in 2016? Will he note my grandmas name? Will he note the lyrics to songs that got me through the dark? Will he wonder about the Waylon tattoos?  Will he assume I’ve been to Burning Man because I have a Burning Man tattooed on my leg? Will there some day be a record of all the things I held near to my heart?  It almost makes me happy to know that person will get to spend a few minutes following the story of my life, and wondering about the girl on their table.

I get stopped about my ink often.  Lots of people like it.  My tattoos are all very well done, colorful, and clear. I get many compliments. I also get asked “why” a lot.  I tell them now, I can take it with me when I die. Your boat, your art collection, the trinkets you collect on a shelf, your fancy car, none of it goes with you when you die.  My tattoos, though, they will come with me.  They will follow me wherever I go, until the very end of time, when I no longer exist, they will be there. Your art, trinkets, cars and boats will be left behind. Someone will have to deal with them. Sell them, feud over them, maintain them, look at them, etc.  My investment though, my ink, my art, won’t be left behind. That, that right there makes me happy.  I know, that at the end of the day one thing is true, the stories on my body will still be there tomorrow.  I can trust in that, and having one thing to trust in gives me hope.

*Please excuse the errors, the spell check button on my blog platform doesn’t work. Nothing actually works, so hopefully this posts at all.

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