Dealing with Grief: Depression
PLEASE NOTE: This post differs from the others in this series. It is stream of conscious and intended as insight into what if feels like to deal with chronic depression. I do not claim this to be everyone’s experiences with depressive grief. Nor do I claim to know how everyone can best deal with any form of grief, especially depression. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for any mental illness or emotional difficulty. In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, please know that if you are currently experiencing depression for any reason and are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, this is not something you have to handle on your own. I hope you can find commiseration in my post and that you will consider reaching out to someone. For example, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an organization open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as a resource for anyone in crisis. Call them toll free at 1-800-273-8255.
Depression: A Personal Journey
Well, this one took me even longer to get around to than Denial. Unsurprising, of course, considering the subject and my history of chronic depression. It’s no big secret that writing, directing, producing, and watching a show about the hardest part of my life come to life on stage this spring took a lot out of me – emotionally and physically.
I think one of the best descriptions of depression can be found on Allie Brosh’s blog Hyperbole and a Half. Her brilliant depiction of the anger, fear, numbness, and often absolute ridiculousness of the entire experience is perfect in so many ways. At least, that is, for my own experiences of depression, which stretch back across nearly 25 of my 31 years. We all experience depression in different ways.
I am what has been referred to as a high-functioning depressive. It shocks me to no end each time I explain to someone just how deep into an episode I was during some point in time – someone close to me – and they answer, “I had no idea.” I used to think it was because they didn’t care enough to notice. But now I know it’s because at a very early age I became very good at faking it and pushing forward, at the expense of my own health and sanity. This is not to say that being depressed makes a person insane – certainly not. However, my own experiences with depression have led to periods of deep exhaustion, brain fog, and strange rationalizations about the world that otherwise might never have occurred to me. For example many years ago, in a really embarrassing moment of total lack of mental clarity, I began obsessing about a long-missed friend’s Facebook post that said he was “at your mom’s.” Convinced that this was somehow a deeper message meant for me, I rushed over to my mother’s, only to find her pretty bewildered by my presence and very much alone. Grief, especially in the form of depression, can produce illogical, irrational, and even, yes, sometimes insane thoughts.
“The thing about grief is that it is never simply the grief we are currently experiencing. New wounds and losses have a way of slicing open every old wound and loss from throughout our lives.”
The thing about grief is that it is never simply the grief we are currently experiencing. New wounds and losses have a way of slicing open every old wound and loss from throughout our lives. This pain can result in deep depressive episodes that rock us to our very core. This, I believe, is why grief affects people in so many different ways, because no two people have experienced the same types of grief and no two people’s brains are hardwired to experience loss in the exact same way.
For me, this year, my losses came in the form of strong male figures. In January, I lost my maternal grandfather, a man who was larger than life, impossibly kind, and a second father to me for all of my life. Not long ago, a woman I consider to be a sister lost her father, another strong male role model who had peripherally been in my life since I was around five years old. And, more recently with the political discourse surrounding women’s rights and sexual assault, I have begun dredging up past traumas and, with them, a somewhat illogical but all-too-real, long-held perception that my own father had not protected me over the years.
Depression is possibly the most insidious form of dealing with grief. It has a way of seeping into your thoughts – your very soul – and making camp there. It tells you incessantly that whatever loss you have experienced was your fault. And, perhaps even more destructive, that you deserved it. I do not have the answers to grief nor stalwart advice on coming out of depression. I am daily dealing with my own depressive demons and have never claimed this blog to one of medical, scientific, or self-help information (even if some of my posts discuss these items). However, depression is frenemy I know all too well.
I can’t say that I know exactly what you’re going through, but I can say that I understand how much it hurts.
I can’t say that I know what caused the loss you’re experiencing, but I can – without a shadow of a doubt – say that you do not deserve the hurt you’re feeling because of it.
It is not your fault. You deserve to let go of your grief. This too, like all other things in life, shall pass. This I know with 100 percent certainty. And if you aren’t sure of it right now, then I sincerely hope you will find a way to reach out to someone who can help you get there.
Time-Honored Ways of Diminishing Depression
- Exercise, especially yoga
- Meditation or other mindful practice
- Talk therapy with a licensed therapist
- Proper sleep and nutrition habits
- Occasionally, supplementation/medication
This week’s heartfelt post comes to each and every one of you with so much love and understanding.