You walk in to a room filled with people. Momentarily some people turn to see who has entered, and quickly look away or whisper a quiet word to the person next to them. As you move through the room, a few shoot a quick smile your way and then hold a murmured conversation in hushed tones about you behind your back once you pass. Many walk the long way round the room so they don't have to pass you and risk having to talk to you. Those who are brave enough, venture over to say hello with a wary look on their face, careful not to talk about anything that might set you off. We all sidle around the elephant in the room; 8 months ago my child died.
It's not that people intend to be nasty. In fact I'd say it's generally quite the opposite. They are trying to be nice and ensure I don't have to think about my grief. Because they haven't walked my path, they don't know that I think about it every moment of every day. I try really hard to pretend I'm not thinking about Poppy. But really my pain is like an old warn blanket that shrouds my shoulders where ever I go.
I hate going out. I hate the fact that I make people uncomfortable. I hate that people either expect me to be a weeping mess or to be better. I hate the "I'm sorry" look and the whispered conversations behind my back and the fact that people are judging me always. Even when they say they are not. Just like I have many times past when I didn't really understand what someone was going through or why they were acting in a certain way. I used to be 'people'. Now I'm on the other side, and I wish I was back over the fence.
The prelude to any outing in my house involves a delicate dance. I get nervous, so I get grumpy. G carefully tried to encourage me to not be nervous by reminding me why I'm going. I adamantly refuse to go, mumbling more and more feeble excuses as to why I shouldn't go. Usually I stomp off to the bedroom to finish getting ready and cry my anxiety out. Then I cling to G, and he reassures me that I will be OK, and he'll look after me. And we head off to be the social lepers we are these days.
It's all this stuff I find the hardest. The stuff that hasn't actually changed; simple my perception of it has changed. Like the idle conversation in the staff room at work which frequently brings about fits of panic when the topic turns to babies or pregnancy. Or the birth announcements, or first birthday invites or new pregnancy scans which pop up almost daily on Facebook or in the mail. It's not that the world has changed. It's just me, and my dodgy insides gurgling anxiously.
I will admit I've never been a huge fan of big social occasions. I don't enjoy making conversation with strangers. But now it's like almost everyone is a stranger and we have to find common ground without mentioning 'that'. Sometimes that takes a lot of work to do. I really try not to bring people down. I try to be 'normal'. Often I fail miserably. But occasionally I manage a virtuoso performance.
Maybe it's all in my head. Possibly I'm just becoming a little paranoid, I'm willing to concede that. Some people are wonderful and give me time to talk, and realise I'm always putting on a brave face and try not to judge me. But you don't have to worry about mentioning our loss or Poppy or babies. That's up to me to deal with. It's much harder to deal with being a social pariah. To have people avoid me or make decisions about my grief and whether they feel I should be better or not. Or if I'm too better according to them. I can live with losing Poppy. It's bloody hard and I wish it were different, but I'm surviving. I am not sure I can live with being ostracised. It's a lonely world when very few people talk to you normally.
Here's the thing. I quite like my elephant. He's a lovely bloke and he really gets me. But he needs a break. Maybe next time I go out I can leave him at home, and try to manage without him. But I can't do it alone. I need a little help. My elephant would appreciate your help, and so would I.