Friday, December 20, 2013

update: almost one year*

I cannot believe that in 4 weeks Landon will have been gone for an entire year. I don't feel like it has been that long, yet at the same time I feel like it has been so much longer. I miss him so much, and as weird as it sounds I love him more now than ever.

This past year has been the hardest of my life, as I'm sure will come as no surprise. When Landon passed away, I spent a month living with his parents and his little brother. That month was so hard. I spent little time at my house, only to take Tank out to go to the bathroom. Poor little Tankers, that was not a good month for the little guy. It was good for me to be around his family, but at the same time it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I hated having to be with them without him. His family is my family and have always accepted me as their daughter from practically day 1, but rarely was I with his family without him. His presence was missing, loud and clear.

I wasn't sure if I could live alone and was very nervous about it. As a coping skill, not a "healthy" one I might add, I picked up shopping to keep my mind off of everything. I bought a new bedroom set and decor because Landon and I had never gotten to decorating our room. Once I got my new bed I thought that maybe I would be comfortable enough to stay at my house, because at least my room was now mine and something that didn't necessarily bring back memories of Landon like the rest of the house. I knew that if I kept everything the same that it would be very hard emotionally for me to be home. I needed some place that was just mine so that I could just go there and escape I guess. So about a month after Landon passed away, I finally moved home. The adjustment was hard at first and I thought that I would be scared, but I surprised even myself when I was comfortable being home alone, and I was happy to be back with Tank. I'd be lying if I didn't say that it was still extremely difficult being surrounded by everything that was ours, and all of Landon's clothes and things all in place as if he would be home any second.

I went back to work one week after the funeral, which was also another very difficult thing for me to do. I didn't want to take too much time off because I knew how much work it can be without me there, but I also didn't think too much time to myself would be a good thing. I remember just trying to be as positive as I could be, because I really don't like people to feel sorry for me. I hate making people feel uncomfortable being around me, so I just tried to be "normal" I guess. I wanted my staff to feel at ease when I was there and just didn't want anyone to feel awkward at all, because I can only imagine how nervous they all were to have me come back and not knowing how to act around me. Hell, I didn't even know how to act around me.

I think one way that I was able to get through those first few days/weeks/months was to just talk about it. Landon was my main topic of conversation and I was more than willing and open to talking about him and answering questions that anyone had. I wasn't trying to hide anything and I feel like it helped me a lot to talk about him. Because I work at a residential treatment center for at-risk youth, I was blessed enough to be surrounded by people who wouldn't judge me and could sympathize with what I was going through to some extent. I didn't feel judged for the way that Landon died, I just felt loved and comforted. On July 14th, exactly 6 months after the day that Landon overdosed, I talked to the students at my work about Landon's story. Probably the most difficult thing I have done to date. I sobbed my entire way through it. The students responded better than I could have ever imagined and several of them wrote me letters after telling me their stories and giving me words of encouragement. It was after that experience that I knew that working at Heritage was anything but a coincidence, but the exact place that I needed to be.

Speaking of work, this year it has been...well...a lot of work. Not only has this past year been the most challenging personally, but also professionally. Being very short-handed staffing wise for much of the year was very difficult for all of us in my department and we definitely felt it, especially me. Working a lot of hours and not always feeling the best was a huge struggle, and something that I am faced with even now. I am so grateful for my job and feel very blessed to have such a great place to work that also takes care of me financially, but for sure it has been hard this past year and has been one of my main stresses.

I've learned a lot about friendship this year. Landon and I were best friends and didn't really make an effort to have friends outside of us. Well, that has come to kick me in the butt and I have realized just how few friends I have. When I can tell that I am getting depressed I try to make plans and to keep myself occupied, which is hard when you don't have many options. I always have people tell me that I can call them anytime and I know that they would hang out if I wanted them to, but most people have lives of their own, families of their own. I don't have many single people to hang out with. I made an effort with a few different friends, but I have come to realize that it's hard to maintain certain friends. It's almost easier to not have friends I discovered. I guess what I'm trying to say is I have learned who my real friends are, which aren't many, but the ones that I do have I know will be there for me no matter what and they love me for me.  They are invested in me and look out for my best interests. They don't require a lot out of me to be my friend, they are just there to listen to me cry, to listen to my struggles and times of happiness, and want the best for me. Truly want the best for me. It's those few friends that I want in my life. I'm done seeking friends just to have friends.

I have made an effort to try and be closer with family, both immediate and extended. I am the worst family member ever, and still am the worst family member ever, but I legitimately am trying to be better. Again, when I was married I was convinced I only needed Landon and didn't make much of an effort, but family is important. I had the opportunity to go to Mexico with my sister in October, and I am so happy that I had that time with her to get to know her better and to have such a fun and crazy adventure with her.

Dating. I'm sure it was a shock to many when I started dating so soon after Landon passed away. For me, I just loved being married and love being in love. It didn't mean that I loved Landon any less, in fact more than anything I put him on a pedestal. My marriage was so amazing and I loved it so much that I just wanted to have that again. I'd be lying if loneliness wasn't talking and I was and am still scared of being alone. For living in Utah, I feel old to be starting over. I realize I am still young, but I feel old for being "single" I guess. I still feel like I'm married sometimes, since I didn't choose to be single by any means. I didn't choose to be single and I didn't want to be single.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that the thought of dating was kind of exciting. I have never really dated before, and that includes before marrying Landon. I would hang out with guys and we might end up "dating", which my longest relationship before Landon was 2 weeks (wish I were lying), but really going on a "first date" was something I had only done maybe once or twice. At the time I was confident and I thought that I had a lot to offer someone, which I guess I still do to some extent, but my confidence has most definitely dwindled since months ago. So, I put myself out there and joined some dating websites since I don't know how you meet guys these days. I went out with a few guys and I have stories for days. I liked feeling wanted by someone and feeling like some guys find me attractive and that I really might be able to find someone again, but most left me feeling frustrated, anxious, disappointed, rejected, and hopeless. Not saying there weren't some good ones in there, and honestly most of the guys were awesome, they just weren't for me I guess. I just feel so old, much older than 27. But I think the most frustrating part of dating has been that I know that I had it right the first time. I try to be positive and make the best of my situation and just be so grateful for the time that I had to spend with Landon, but sometimes I am just angry and sad. I want to be with him. I only want him.

I decided awhile back to take a break from actively trying to date and just focus on myself. I thought that maybe that would be good for me, because they say that you can't be happy with someone if you are not happy with yourself. I'm trying to discover who exactly I am in this life without Landon. I thought I knew who I was when I started dating, which I did at the time, but the person I was turned out to be the person I was with Landon. Not necessarily who I am on my own. I don't know if this makes sense, but I didn't realize just how much two become one when they are married. You kind of compromise into becoming each other and making each other happy, but when you are faced with being just you, you kind of have to figure everything out again. I can be whoever I want to be. That is exhilarating and petrifying all at the same time. Of course I'm still the same Alyssa for the most part, but part of me has changed and is still changing.

I've never experienced true depression until this past year. I can honestly say that I am depressed. I think the depression set in about August. At the beginning I kept myself so busy that I just ran through life from one thing to the next and didn't take much time to alone. In August I realized that the holidays were coming up - my birthday, Thanksgiving soon after, Christmas, and before I knew it Landon will have been gone for a year. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I had some random times of happiness here and there, but for the most part I was and still am depressed. I feel alone. I have found it hard to be close to people since Landon passed away, even my closest friends and family, and the only thing I can think of is deep down I think I'm scared of losing them. I've noticed I tend to push people away because if they get too close then there is a possibility that they can hurt me. I don't want to hurt anymore. But I know in order to get past being depressed I need to start letting people in again and trusting people. I need people in my life to be happy. That's the fact of it. I'd like to think that I don't need a guy in my life to be happy, but I'll be honest, it helps a lot to have someone to love and to be loved to be happy. I also need to not be scared of what people think about me. I didn't used to be, but then for some reason now I'm paranoid. I guess that it all comes down to the fact that I need to be fine with me, regardless of what everyone else thinks. As long as I know that I am a good person and am being the best me I can be, I have nothing to worry about.

With Christmas just 5 days away, I honestly just want to get it over with. I am not excited in the slightest and feel no Christmas spirit. Christmas was the last holiday I got to spend with Landon and it just sucks that he's not here with me this year. I know once I go through all of the "firsts" that slowly things will get better, because I had a time when things weren't as rough as they are now. I need to get back to doing the things that I know make me happy, like working out, doing things for others, and hanging out with family and friends. I feel like I have regressed so much these last few months and it's so frustrating, but I think it's also been good for me to go through these emotions. Actually dealing with losing Landon and crying my way through it. I just enjoyed life a lot more when I stayed busy and was trying to be as optimistic as I could about it. I know I'll get back there, but for now I'm just trying to live day by day.

What my future holds, I have no idea. I wish I had a crystal ball that would tell me my fate, but for now everything in my life is a mystery. People often ask me if I am going to sell my house and move to a smaller house or apartment, and really who knows. I love my house. For sure it's too big for a single lady and her dog, but it's my house and something that both Landon and I were so proud of when we bought it. I looked at apartments and houses closer to work awhile back, but paying rent that is almost as much as my mortgage seems absurd. I don't want a roommate. I don't necessarily like living alone, but the thought of living with someone makes me crazy. I like my quiet house and quiet neighborhood. Money is definitely tight, but for now I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it work.

Thinking of the future makes me very anxious, excited, and impatient. I am definitely a lot less scared to take risks and to be more adventurous. I'm no longer afraid to die. Not that I am wanting to die, but for sure I'm not scared in the least. I'm very excited to see Landon again. This is not a cry for help, it's just the fact of the matter. I miss him a lot. I am excited for 2014. I have never been one to care about New Years, but I can't think of much else that I am more excited about than a new year. I am starting it out right and visiting one of my dearest and best friends that moved to Connecticut this last summer. I have missed her so much and need her in my life, especially now.

This past year has challenged me more than I could ever imagine, has made me stronger and more independent, and has taught me so much about myself. Through all of the bad, I can't help but think of the good and just be grateful for what I do have in my life. Thank you to all of my friends and family that have stuck by me through it all, cheering on words of encouragement and just letting me be crazy and loving me anyway. I hope that I can do the same for all of you one day. I have so much love in my heart for so many people that it is overwhelming. I am truly so blessed to have so many quality people in my life. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I love you all :).

Thursday, June 6, 2013

my landon*

I actually started this blog back in July of 2012, but my life has changed drastically since then. Usually I start these things by saying that my name is Alyssa Cundy. I am married Landon Cundy who is the most amazing man I have ever met and we have been married for 5 1/2 years. We have a little dog named Tank that is the most spoiled puppy ever.

That was pretty much my standard in any "describe yourself" section. But on Monday, January 14th, my world was turned upside down. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I told Landon that I would get off work at 4:30pm, but got busy and ended up leaving an hour later. I called him as I was leaving, like I did everyday, and I remember our exact conversation.

A: "Hey baby what are you doing?"

L: "Just bull-shittin' with Brian, what are you doing?"

A: "Oh really? Just leaving work. Well, I'm going to make dinner so what time will you be home?"

L: "Oh...I don't know. (Long pause). Let's say 7 to be safe."

A: "Ok. I love you."

L:  "I love you, too."

And those were the last words that I spoke to my best friend.

Backing up to a couple weeks prior to January 14th, Landon was struggling big time with depression and anxiety. It was always bad in the winter. This time he was especially low and thought that maybe his job may be a factor. He put 110% into his work, which resulted in him basically living there. He was great at what he did. He worked with at-risk youth and loved those kids. But I agreed, maybe it was too much for him. So on December 14th, Landon resigned from his job. In the meantime, he had been looking for jobs, but felt so depressed and down that he had talked to both his mom and me about how he didn't know if he could ever work again. I have never seen Landon cry so much as he did during that time. He did not feel good. He went to his doctor to see if he should take a different anti-depressant, and went to a new doctor who tested his blood and found that he was low in vitamin D, testosterone, and he was having thyroid issues. He was prescribed the necessary drugs and started taking them, along with his other medicines from his doctor. We were hoping that all of these things would help, but knew it would take time for them to kick in. We tried to be optimistic, although I could see that Landon felt it was a lost cause. He felt like he would feel like that forever.

Landon struggled from 18-22 with a drug addiction. During our marriage he also started struggling with alcohol. At this point, he was drug-free for almost 7 years, and alcohol-free for almost 2 years. He did relapse with alcohol in January, but with an intervention from his parents and I he started taking his antibuse again. He had begged me a few days later to just let him drink. It would make his anxiety not as intense, he told me. I just couldn't say yes. I told him it's his choice and it's his body, but that I could not go through that again. So he didn't...

Back to January 14th. When Landon told me he was with Brian my heart dropped to my stomach and I was already in a panic. Brian is one of Landon's high school friends that is known for still being in trouble and not someone that I would want my recovering addict husband hanging out with. He had hung out with him once before about a week prior, and although I voiced my concerns, I didn't want to be too critical because at least he was being honest with me. He could lie and tell me he was somewhere else, so I was just satisfied with knowing he was telling the truth.

When I got home I made one of Landon's favorites - chicken tacos. I was trying not to be a nervous wreck and trying to remain calm so that when he got home I didn't explode at the fact that he was with Brian. 7:00 came and went and I really started to panic. By 7:35 I started texted him one of our signature "where are you" texts - "are you lost?". No response. At 7:45 I texted "Honey sorry I'm annoying but I'm worried. Please call me back". Still no response. I called him frantically twice, the second time leaving him a message. I didn't remember it at the time, but I listened to it a few days later. I actually said in my message that I was worried that he had overdosed.

My mother-in-law Judy is friends with Brian's mom, so I called her to see if she could call his mom and track Brian down, then maybe I could find Landon. Judy was up at my sister-in-laws in Woods Cross, but she said that she would call Brian's mom and find out what she knows. She called me back saying that Brian was going to be at her house soon picking up his son and she would let Judy know anything as soon as she found out.

We both started panicking as I told Judy how much money was in our account and that I didn't want to lose everything to drugs. She said she would go to the bank with me in the morning to withdraw our savings. We were both just frantic about what could have happened. We were going through all of the "what ifs". Judy thought if we had just had a baby. It wasn't until then that I broke the news to her that we had been trying since July. What if we had just seen the signs? He didn't seem right at Judy's birthday dinner the Friday before. So many questions we had, all the while being worried sick.

I hung up with Judy and just paced back and forth. About ten minutes later I got a phone call from a number I didn't know. I answered:


"Hello. Umm..are you married?"


"What is your husband's name?"

"Landon Cundy"

"Ok, this is Mountain View Hospital. Your husband is here. We need you to come as quickly as you can. Drive safe. Oh, and he does have a heartbeat"

I then talked to the lady on the phone panicking because I didn't know how to get there. As she's trying to keep me calm, I tell her I will just pick up my father-in-law and he can show me where to go. I hang up and immediately call Judy. She doesn't answer. I call their house phone to talk to Fred (my father-in-law). No answer. I jump in my car and race to Fred and Judy's house. I finally get a hold of Judy on my way. I tell her what the lady from the hospital said and she said that she is already on her way. I pick up Fred and we rush to the hospital, which is about 10 minutes away.

Fred and I go in and wait for a doctor to come and talk to us. I honestly don't remember a word he said. I felt like I was going to throw up. He said that we can go back and see him soon. Judy finally got there and we were still waiting in the same place. Finally they let us back to see my Landon. He is laying there with two nurses physically giving him air through his throat with some sort of plastic balloon-type thing. I can see his chest moving up and down, but no response. They just keep pumping air - in and out. Over and over.

A police officer came in the room and asked to speak to me. I go with him to the waiting area I was at before, and he pulls out a plastic baggy. It has balloons of heroin it in. He asked me if Landon injected the drug in the past, and I told him absolutely not. Landon was terrified of needles. He had always smoked it. The officer then told me that it is extremely rare to overdose when you smoke heroin (we later found out from the autopsy that Landon had several clogged arteries to the heart, which was a huge factor in having a heart attack). This was news to me, because Landon had overdosed once before we had ever met. He asked me a few more questions before handing me Landon's wallet, watch, and keys and then told me he would be in touch.

When they thought he was stable enough to do so, they moved Landon to the Critical Care Unit. It took them over 2 hours before they came back and told us that we could go see him. By this time Landon's brother, sister and her husband had come to the hospital. Longest 2 hours of my entire life. They finally said he was all hooked up to his machines and that we could go in and see him. I never want to see someone like that again. Tubes and IV's everywhere with a big breathing tube going down his throat and the device taped to his face.

That day was the worst day of my life. The doctor had told us that we couldn't know much until after the first 48 hours, so we just had to wait. None of us slept at all that night. Finally morning came and a new doctor came in to talk to us. With very little emotion he tells us that his brain was without oxygen for too long and that we need to plan to say our goodbyes. We were so confused! The doctor the night before told us we would know very little until after the first 48 hours, and now this doctor is telling us that this is it. He told us to be thinking about if we wanted go ahead and pull life support and to let him know our decision. HELL NO we all said. We wanted to wait to see if there would be any improvements. My Landon is strong. We needed to give him a chance to fight.

Landon showed no signs of brain activity. Nurses would come in and pinch his fingernails, sharply run their nails across his feet, and stick a long tube down his throat to see if he would cough. No response.

By Tuesday night we had little hope, but still hope nonetheless. Dr. Al came in and started talking to us in his very thick accent. We didn't understand much, but we all heard him loud and clear when he told us that Landon was breathing on his own. We all started yelling and crying and looking at Landon in disbelief. We had been staring at the breathing machine all day thinking that it was taking the breaths for him. But no, Landon was assisting the machine in those breaths! It takes brain activity to breathe, and all we needed was that much good news to feel a huge sigh of relief. The doctor also told us about this process that they were doing to heat his body back up. They had a cooling pad on him since Monday night to keep his body temperature low so that there wouldn't be any swelling in the brain. The doctor left and our nurse highly suggested that we go home and sleep. We were all exhausted. We made him promise that he would call with even the tiniest bit of change, and when he reassured us about fifty times we decided to go home for a few hours.

We came back in the early morning feeling so much hope and enthusiasm and just knew that Wednesday we would continue to hear more good news. I finally ate something for the first time since Monday afternoon and I was feeling nothing but hope. The nurse said the warming process for his body went smoothly and that Landon was at the temperature that they wanted him to be. That afternoon they decided to change Landon's sheets and give him a sponge bath, so we left the room while they got everything situated. When we got back in the room I immediately started to panic. Landon was completely gray and his eyes were sunken way in. He looked like death. They said it is really traumatic on the body to be moved, so that was why his coloring was the way it was. It was from then on out that his condition worsened. He started getting a fever and his heart rate was skyrocketing. They kept coming in and giving him medicine to keep his levels under control. After awhile his coloring finally went back to normal, which made me feel a lot better.

One time when Judy stepped out I asked our nurse Kari honestly what she thought about Landon. She told me that she has never seen anyone like Landon. Of course there had been several people in her care that had overdosed, but never had she seen anyone respond like Landon. She told me that it didn't look good. However, she had seen people look worse than Landon that came out of it and lead a normal life. It was all just a toss up.

That night Dr. Al came in again and talked to us about Landon's condition. This time he was not as optimistic. There were still no signs of brain activity. He said that they would do different tests in the morning on the brain and that at that point we would know more.

I stayed with Landon until 1:30 on Thursday morning. I sat there with him and played the Aaron Lewis Pandora station. Landon was a huge Aaron Lewis fan, and I was just hoping and praying that hearing some of his favorite songs would provoke some kind of movement. Finally at 1:30 Judy came in and told me to get some rest in the waiting room and she would let me know if there were any changes.

I wasn't in the waiting room for an hour before a nurse came rushing in and told me to go to Landon's room. I go there and there is a team of 4 nurses frantically working on Landon. He had stopped breathing on his own. They quickly got the machine hooked back up to where it did the breathing for him and gave him several new medicines through his IV's. We just sat there in shock again feeling so helpless. I don't remember what we asked the nurse, but to one of our questions her response was "he's trying to die". My poor Landon. I just wanted to hug him and tell him to keep fighting! Just keep fighting!! Landon's brother and dad came back to the hospital shortly after he was hooked back up to the machine and we all just sat there while reality sank in. It didn't look good. At all.

The next morning the doctor told us that Landon would be going for his brain tests soon. He was very skeptical in the results that we would see and wanted to warn us that it probably wouldn't be good. Not too long after he left, the doctor that had done his brain tests came in. He told us that the swelling in the brain was significant. So much swelling that he could barely get a good picture of any of the brain itself. What he did see of the brain had suffered several strokes. From what he could see, there was no activity. If we waited for the swelling to go down they could do more tests and then we could know more.

Landon's doctor came back in shortly after and started explaining more in detail what that all meant. We still had a glimmer of hope that maybe just maybe a miracle would happen.

That afternoon the doctor came back and broke the news. We had two options. We could transfer Landon to the University of Utah hospital where they could perform a surgery that would reduce the swelling so that we could get a better understanding of what we are dealing with. If (and he emphasized with great disbelief that he would even make it through) Landon survived the surgery, he may have a fighting chance to live. In a rest home. He would never be the same. Or option number two, we could let him go. Two choices I never would have thought I would ever be faced with.

When the doctor left we just sat there in silence. Landon's sister works at a doctors office and she began describing the stroke patients that she has seen. It's not pretty. They don't really live a life. Everyone started talking about how Landon wouldn't want to be like that. I just sat there in shock. I couldn't speak. Then Judy says, "Alyssa, what do you want to do? We will do whatever you want to do." I wanted to try! I wanted him to go into surgery! What if he makes it! What if there is a miracle! As hard as I'm sure it was for them, they started going through all the scenarios with me. Landon wouldn't want that. But I was selfish. This was the love of my life that we were talking about. My best friend. He was my life. My world literally revolved around this amazing kid. What would I do without him??? But it wasn't about me. It was about Landon. And so it was then that we had to tell the doctor our decision.

We sat there for a couple of hours just reminiscing about stories we had of Landon. We were laughing hysterically at the crazy and amazing things that he had done throughout his life. He was some kid, my Landon.

When we decided it was time to say goodbye we didn't want all the cords and breathing tubes and nonsense surrounding him, so we asked if we could have him look like his normal adorable self  before we had to say goodbye. We left as the nurses came in the room and unplugged him from the very things that were keeping him alive. When they were ready for us to return it just broke my heart to see the nurses that were asked to take everything off of him just sobbing. None of them had been Landon's nurse and didn't know me or his family, and yet they were so affected by what they had to do. It broke my heart for them that this was even part of anyones job. I love those nurses.

We went in and it looked like my Landon was just taking a nap. He looked so peaceful and so dang cute. I just wanted to snuggle up with him and just wanted him to tell me that everything would be alright. But I just held his hand secretly hoping I would just feel him budge. But my Landon didn't budge. He was ready to go.

Landon is the best thing that ever happened to me. He wasn't perfect, but then again none of us are. But he was absolutely perfect for me. I learned so much from that amazing kid that I don't even know where to begin. In the whole 6 years that I was with him, we spent a total of 3 days apart. I saw him almost every single day for over 6 years. He was my best friend. I can count the number of times that we fought on one hand, which goes to show you just how patient Landon is. As much as I wish that he was still here, I am so grateful that I got to know him as long as I did. Every life that Landon touched was affected by him. He was so large in stature, but he had the softest, kindest heart. My aunt reminded me how adorable he was on our wedding day, bawling like a baby. That was my Landon.

I miss him so much it literally hurts sometimes. I still find myself hearing something funny or hearing some big news and I think - oh I need to hurry and text Landon! I shared everything with him, and him with me. It's been a huge adjustment to not have someone there to share those exciting things with. I miss holding his hand everywhere we went. Well, really I held his pointer finger and he held my fist. But it's the little things that I miss so much. He was my first love, my husband, my best friend, and now my angel.

My life now could not be any more different. I'm trying to make the best of it, although it is really hard sometimes. Music is my therapy. It makes me laugh, cry, and makes me know that someday I will be able to find someone to love again. It's weird to think that I'm not really married anymore. I LOVED being married. More than anything. I loved being married to Landon. Landon will always be with me, and I hope that I am making him proud by trying to live a happy life. I know it is what he would want. It brings me peace to know that he is finally happy. He doesn't have to worry about all of the temptations in this world anymore. He is not depressed. He is not anxious. He is up there watching over me and his sweet family. This I have to believe.