Monday, June 25, 2012

Coping with the Stages of Grief: Depression

I'm on my knees
only memories 
are left for me to hold

Dont know how 
but Ill get by 
Slowly pull myself together 

Theres no escape
So keep me safe
This feels so unreal

Nothing comes easily 
Fill this empty space 
Nothing is like it seems
Turn my grief to grace

I feel the cold
Loneliness unfold
Like from another world

Come what may
I wont fade away
But I know I might change 

Nothing comes easily 
Fill this empty space 
Nothing is like it was
Turn my grief to grace

Nothing comes easily 
Where do I begin?
Nothing can bring me peace
Ive lost everything 
I just want to feel your embrace

This past week has been difficult. I've tried to find the energy to write a long post about it but I've barely had the energy to function.  This week I've been dealing with probably the most prevalent stage of grief (at least for me): Depression.

I realize as I'm writing this that I'm missing a step.  Two actually: Anger and Bargaining.  Bargaining is all about the "what if's" and the dealing in hypotheticals, which leads to blame, which can lead to anger.  I should have posted about the other stages first.  Because once you get past the anger and blame, the whole thing is just sad.  That's when the depression happens.  So yes, I suppose if I were writing a book, Anger and Bargaining should have come first.  Good thing this is a blog.  I'll post about it all eventually, but this is just so... on my mind.

My Experience with Depression

It's pretty straight forward.  I am tremendously sad.  Anger and dealing in hypotheticals has never really been my thing.  So I skipped to depression pretty quickly.  I've gone from crying violently, to just lying in bed and not talking to anyone.  We've all gone through the initial hardcore grief.  I cried everyday for two weeks.  Then it subsides a little.  What happens after that, it varies.  Or so I've gathered.

After a week or two, people want me to be okay so badly.  And sometimes I actually was.  But every moment of okay comes with that crash, and every crash reminded me that for the rest of my life, there will be a cap on my happiness.  Some of the most amazing moments of my life are yet to come: My wedding day, having a child... And even though I know I'll be happy for all of these things, I worry that I'll never be as happy as I could have been if I hadn't lost her.  I know that I can't think like that, but I can't help it.  And then THAT made me sad too.

Then suddenly... I really was okay for a while.  In fact, I remember how relieved I was.  I thought it would take me so much longer to feel this okay again.  I didn't feel like crying all the time, I didn't feel guilty when I had moments of joy or felt like flirting with my boyfriend, I actually wanted to get my resume together and felt the urge to do laundry, and I could talk about Jenna and miss her, but feel grateful for having her.

Then as stealthily as depression crept out, it crept the hell back in.  Ninja bastard...

For me, I've realized recovery is much less like a straight line and much more like the curly/sprial tail of a pig:
It is traveling in a specific direction, but it loops back pretty regularly. Grief is very much the same way. Recently, I looped the hell back. I imagine it was a combination of things. Two weekends ago, it was my birthday AND Father's Day. I talked about how we made Mother's Day delightfully distracting, but this was almost too much in one weekend. And it involved me slipping back into old habits of pleasing others before I pleased myself. I got tired out.

And soon enough, I found myself looking at pictures of Jenna and feeling that knife I thought I'd pulled out weeks ago. It came crashing down on me all over again that someone who was supposed to be a fixture in my life has been ripped away from me for no good reason. The worst part is that she still feels so friggin real. So three dimensional. I'll be flipping through her iPod and see songs I don't know. Then I realize that there are pieces of her that I don't have and may never have because I can no longer access them. An image will flash through my head that will be as simple as the curve of her shoulder under a black hoodie she always wore. And I'll know I'll never see that particular line in front of me ever again. That's when the air feels too thick and starts to choke me all over again.

I didn't get out of bed for an entire day that week.  I picked fights with my boyfriend.  When I was driving home from what I thought was a successful night of fun karaoke, I had to call a friend (who had just left before me, so I knew he was within reach) and cried on him in the parking lot of a friggin Steak n' Shake.

Then last Friday, I woke up and I felt better.  Not a LOT better, but I felt like I was coming back.  It's still shaky.  I know I'm still on the curve of the tail before the point I was at, but at least I'm not at the furthest point.  God I hope that makes sense...

Like I said, we've all gone through the initial hardcore grief.  I hope that you all got through okay.   in the spirit of Jenna (who loved to make lists), here are...

Amanda's Do's and Don'ts for your Next Grief Relapse

These are tailored specifically to me from my experiences this past week, but perhaps you can get some use out of them:

Cry. It's okay. Cry a lot if you have to. In your room, on a walk, even in the parking lot of a Steak n' Shake if you must...

Cry alone every time. Sometimes crying alone is okay, but try to cry with someone (to tell you it's going to be okay) maybe... A third of the time.

Get mad at your significant other for letting all that crying wear him out a little. He can't help it and he's doing the best he can. He's been your rock. Cut the man some slack.

Find more than one person to talk to about what you're going through. It's tempting to put it all on yourself or on one person. It's even easier in some ways (at first). But it's not fair to yourself and/or that one person to let that be your strategy. There are so many people who would love nothing more than to fill that role for you.

Get frustrated when people don't say the right things, don't know what to say, or say the same things over and over. Not everyone is a wordsmith. They're there and they're listening.

Try something new to help yourself. I'm going to try taking walks in the morning.

Abandon the old stuff that helped. You may have just been forgetting to do it.

Drink when you feel sad.  This is only something I've done accidentally (I didn't realize how sad I was UNTIL I'd had a few drinks), but for those of you who do use this strategy often, drinking is something that should simply ENHANCE happiness, not enable it.

Recognize when you need to go home when you're out doing something. It's always good to push yourself to do things, but if you're feeling worn out, BE DONE. Everyone will understand. And if they don't, they'll get over it.

Give yourself recovery and alone time if you really need it.

Isolate yourself.

Lose patience with yourself.  This will happen again, and THAT IS OKAY.

Talk to Jenna when you're feeling your emptiest. Even if you don't feel up to it or it feels forced at first, it ALWAYS helps.

Write lists.  Not just because Jenna loved them, but because they help.  Write a list of things you're grateful for.  Write a list of things that make you happy.  Write a list of things Jenna loved (then send it to me).  Write goals for yourself.  Any of these things.  I chose goals.

My Goals List:
  • Go see that goddamn grief counselor. I know you don't want to go. No one wants to go. And maybe you'll get nothing out of it because you're a very self-analytical and open person, which pretty much nullifies like three quarters of what they are equipped to do for people, but hey! There's still that one forth left and maybe that'll give you something you haven't thought of yet. Maybe. At the very least it'll get your very loving and concerned father off your back... o_O
  • No more than one pajama day a week. Even if you don't go anywhere. No seriously. I'm cutting you off. You're done. Go shower.
  • No sleeping past 10am. At all. Nope, not even after karaoke night. Get up.
  • Get a fucking job.
  • GET. A FUCKING. JOB. Really though, it'll help. Do it.

I think that's an acceptable list of things to do over the next week. Hopefully it'll help.  But I also need to accept that no matter what I do, this sadness thing isn't something I'll ever be able to totally control.  I'm just going to be sad for a while.  And the only thing I can really do is set little goals to get me through each week and keep moving me forward.  Because that's the thing, when it comes right down to it, you have to surrender to a balance.  I'm coming to realize more and more that there is a spectrum.  On one end is "BASKING IN THE GRIEF" - In which you let the grief consume you.  You can never move on, you feel guilty about feeling happy, etc.  On the other end is "DENYING YOUR FEELINGS" - In which you force yourself to be okay, even when you aren't ready.  You push it down until you don't feel it.  Then it either eats away at your insides or explodes all over your outsides.  Neither one is any good.  You need to let yourself feel, but take control of the process.  Keep working and pushing forward, but try not to focus too hard on the finish line.  This isn't the kind of thing you just get over, and when I think about it, I wouldn't want to if I could.

I'm just so tired of being sad.

Emotional Physical Therapy (Just go with it...)

Jenna just stretchin' the ol' spine
I had a conversation today with my boyfriend's mom.  She's a physical therapist and she talked about how impatient she was when she herself had to undergo physical therapy some years ago.  It made me realize that's really what we're doing here.  Emotional PT.  Kind of an oxymoron but you get what I mean.  We've had a piece of us ripped off.  Nothing will ever be the same, but that doesn't necessarily mean our life is over.  It'll just be different.  And the road to recovery is going to be a process.  We can't push ourselves too hard to speed it up or we run the risk of doing more harm than good, but if we don't push ourselves at all, we'll just plateau and we'll settle for a level of function that is nowhere near what we had or what we could have.

We'll walk again, but it's going to take time, it's going to take many falls, it's going to give us a result very different than what we've been used to, and it's going to take way longer than we want it to.

It may sound cliche to say "one day at a time," but life is too short to do it any other way.

1 comment:

  1. Baby steps, Amanda. For now, baby steps in this dark moonscape you are navigating are monumbental! And this blog,,, is a beautiful thing, It touches so many of us in so many different ways. Thank you for sharing with us.