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Grieving While Depressed

I am here to tell you that depression really, really sucks.

I’m sure you know this but hey, I felt I should just lay all my cards on the table. On a decent day, I wake up, after sleeping 12 hours or more, still exhausted and lay in bed for another three hours before finally having the energy to sit up. I sit up for another hour before I finally have the energy to get up. From there we go through the motions, pretend to be functioning. I shower, I get dressed, I open my laptop, I check twitter on my phone, I go to class or to work. It is physically and emotionally draining and after getting through all of that I get home, I lay down, put on a show I’ve seen a million times because I need the noise, but I can’t mentally commit to anything new. I’ve trained myself, equipped myself with tips and tricks on how to just get through it all. Internal monologues, positive affirmations, uplifting music, multiple alarms, cute affirming art plastered on my walls, cute pens, decadent perfume, anything to remind me throughout the day I am here, and I deserve to be here, and it will all be okay. All those things, all those very carefully crafted and purposeful things, suddenly went out the window when I got the call.

Death really, and I mean really, sucks.

Nothing worse than death, and nothing worse than an unexpected death. One day you’re texting one of your best friends that you just finished the Amy Winehouse documentary and thought of Her and how much you love Her and are glad she is here with you still, and the next day you’re driving home from work and Her mother calls telling you she died. Just like that, She’s gone. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t understand and driving down one of the busiest roads in that state seemed like a mistake. I managed to get home safe and sound and then began the spiraling. The deep, dark, descent into untamed depression. I thought I had prepared myself, certainly this wasn’t my first significant loss, but I hadn’t. I found myself clinging for dear life to unhealthy coping mechanisms, relapsing into old ways of managing the profound darkness that had seemed to take over my mind and fill my heart. I found new unhealthy coping mechanisms, I claimed inspired by or in honor of Her, but really, they were in sheer desperation for anything, anything to make me feel alive again.

When you lose someone who meant the world to you, it seems the once manageable depression has become a wild forest. Sprawling tendrils of severe pain, yet intense numbness; incredible despair, yet insurmountable rage; all of those emotions climbing from my toes to my brain. Once effective coping mechanisms to just make it through the day only seem to work in suppressing the inevitable once you’re home and alone. This went on for months, seemingly never ending. I could be fine from the time I woke up until the time I got home from work and then all at once, everything would be grey. I couldn’t laugh, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I was chain smoking, binge drinking in my room in the dark. The sinking reality that my life would never be the same, that I wasn’t going to wake up one day and the whole thing be a sick, cruel dream. It was hard enough getting through the day, it was now even harder knowing that one of the brightest spots in my life was gone. One night I drove around, anxious and unable to sleep, smoking cigarette after cigarette until I had blown through an entire playlist of “songs to cry to” and half a pack. I got home and cried in my car, alone, and empty. That was when I knew I had to make a change, and a very large one.

Little by little, I pulled back the weeds.

I started telling my friends what I was going through and telling them real and tangible acts they could do to support me. I was honest with what I needed, and I was able to get that and then some. I caught myself when I started thinking about engaging in an unhealthy coping mechanism, “What if instead of that, I did this?”. I started baking again, one of my favorite cheer-me-up activities. Where there once were thorny vines digging into my heart, started to bloom roses. Everything wasn’t fine, and I certainly wasn’t hurting any less, but I could manage it better. I could allow positive memories, healing memories, to enter into the picture. Slowly I started remembering Her as she was, a complete picture not just bits and pieces I needed to cling to, to justify my spiral. I shared stories with other people who loved Her, I claimed the presence of sadness, I made room for healing. I talked to a counselor, I am considering medication.

Now, a year and some change later I can sit here at my laptop and reflect on it all. I don’t share this story to relive some of my darkest nights, to trudge up my own unhealthy ways of dealing with trauma and grief. Rather, to remind myself, and perhaps you, that we can equip ourselves and train ourselves to get up every day and make it through, but sometimes the unexpected happens. Instead of sliding into destructive habits because “Who would blame me, all things considered?” I could reach out to those who knew me best and say, “I am not doing okay, and I am scared.” I could find new tools, new ways of processing and moving forward. I am only 24, soon to be 25. I have a lot of years ahead of me, and frankly a lot of deaths ahead of me. I think the biggest thing I learned about being depressed and grieving is that it never gets easier, but it certainly can become more manageable. And if you should find yourself easing down the yellow brick road of destruction, I hope you find yourself also pulling back the weeds and allowing yourself space to ask for help and to receive it.

You know what doesn’t suck?

You, and I hope in the midst of your grief and your depression you make time to remind yourself of that.

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