Grief, I am learning, takes many guises. For some it's paralysing, for others it's a weight they carry around for a long time. I thought I was immune, or rather I thought that because I was prepared and because I had cried it would be mild for me, I would sail through it, a mere sadness, and come out the other side. I was wrong.
It has long been accepted that grief is not only an emotional response, but elicits physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms. I neither knew that, nor was I able to accept it straight away. I found myself unable to sleep, tired throughout the day, wired at night. I was getting ill, yet continued on, because I felt it was all going to go away. I was getting anxious, I was getting physical symptoms and had nothing to attribute them too. Until I opened up and spoke of what was happening to me. I sought help and it came in the form of knowing that what I am going through is normal. That the stress I (and we as a family) have been through in the last year has been enormous. That my symptoms are not unlike Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That to see your loved one die, day in day out, to hold their hand and be there for him, to lose them in the end, takes its toll, physically and mentally.
At first I got scared. I got scared of having to be like this - it's not a nice state. But then I accepted it - this too will pass. And strangely enough, accepting this state alone, has been healing. I am already better and I am finding more and more ways to help me cope. Harvesting the positive, keeping a routine, cherishing the good things, giving myself time.
So my first week of training for the huge feat I have taken on (it feels like that anyway), started last Sunday. In hospital, with IV antibiotics being poured into me. Glad to say that I was out and back on the (training) horse by Wednesday, with a very solid 2k swim, followed by weights. The distance again felt doable. The fact that I did not manage to sleep so well on Wednesday night unsettled me, but I hoped that Thursday would be better.
Thursday consisted of a wonderful mountain bike ride, on our old circuit, along with Duncan. It was a beautiful evening and we left the house around 6.30, when the sun was already low and giving out caramel highlights to everything around us. The mountain was good to us both, we returned exhilarated and unscathed. I slept like a baby that night.
Friday we had a run planned, but we had guests at the house. A couple of colleagues had come for coffee and as the conversation flowed coffee turned to dinner plans. Duncan and I wanted to run, but didn't want to appear inhospitable either. After tentative attempts to see if our guests would be happy entertaining themselves for an hour while we ran, we figured they'd be OK and headed out. My mother would be truly mortified!
Saturday came and the weather looked about the same, beautiful sunshine, 20 degrees. The wind had picked up, but I was heading out to do the first long ride of my training and I was not going to give up (so quickly...) After all I had just 90 mins of ride to get through. The training day started with a swim in some rough waters. I was pleased I could stick with Duncan and that my stroke felt strong. We did a couple of kms and I felt like I could have kept going, despite the cold water and waves.
Onto the bike (and D off to do his long run) I realised just how windy it had got. It was fine while the wind was head on or tail, but as soon as I turned and the wind came from the side I felt very unstable and tensed up. I had to concentrate hard, make sure my weight (of which there isn't all that much) was on my handle bars and keep my wits about me for any gusts. I am very proud to say I stuck it out, all the time thinking of the conditions I might have to face on race-day. It is a flat and fast course, but also very windy. I made it off the bike and onto a quick run, where I met Duncan and we ran back in together.
All in all (and considering the start of the week) it has been a good first week. It has done little to alleviate my fear for being prepared for the distance, but has shown me that with a bit of help and listening to my body I can overcome most things - from grief to Ironman training. The next few months will prove me right... or wrong. Life is a gamble.