Grief is not unlike being lost out at sea; waves of different emotions continuously crash over you and you feel as if the current will sweep you out even farther from what you once thought was normal. Grief sometimes manifests itself into something a lot darker. Sometimes it turns into something that makes you feel emotions you are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with, and the normal stages of grief can manifest into depression.
I was fourteen when my father died. I knew what loss and grief felt like before then – I lost my aunt only four months before my dad died in November 2005 and each year before that, I lost my Gramps and uncle. This time, however, my grief was a lot different; I was not sad all the time, as people expected me to be. I rarely cried and I stopped sleeping. I was up half the night, tossing and turning. I had to force myself to get out of bed every morning because I was exhausted and numb.
Everyone around me thought I was coping so well because I became an amazing actress. I would plaster on a fake smile, go out with friends and continue to go to school like I was fine. On the inside, however, I was crushed under the weight of my depression and constant numbness. Things that used to give me pleasure were now tasks that took what little energy I had away from me; I stopped writing and had to force myself to go out with friends to “keep up with appearances.” I stopped eating and lost weight – once again, I had to force myself to eat to keep everyone around me from thinking that there was something wrong.
By the year anniversary of my dad’s death, I couldn’t take the depression any longer. I could no longer recognize the girl in the mirror; a once happy, full of life girl was now paled by grief and sadness. I was completely lost under wave after wave of crushing sadness and I had no way of getting out. If you had told me before my dad died that I would feel like this, I would have laughed and thought you were crazy. But there I was, a year after my father died, at fifteen years old, struggling to find happiness in my life once more. At its worst, I could not make myself get out of bed and faked sick to get out of school. I decided this was my own battle face – I did not need to bother my family members, who were also swamped with grief – with my sadness. At least, at first I never told anyone.
About six months after my grief turned into something darker, I decided enough was enough. I wanted help – I wanted the people I cared about to know that something was not right with my grief. My grief had manifested itself into depression I needed help. So, I told a teacher that I was close to about my problem and he immediately whisked me off to the guidance counselor who promptly called my mother. My mom rushed from work to the school and held me so tight that I thought she would never let go. She cried and told me that she wished that she could take the pain away. Since that was impossible, of course, we decided to go with the next best thing – therapy.
I started therapy in May of 2007 and have continued to work with the same therapist since then. Therapy is not a walk in the park; there were days after my session that I would run home and fight the urge crawl back into bed because we talked about things that upset or “triggered” me. But therapy also gave me new coping skills to deal with the thoughts of depression and the hard things I was dealing with. I am now able to feel things again and am no longer numb. I can talk about my feelings and experiences without having to lie and put on a fake smile.
I am still currently in therapy and I can honestly say that it is one of the best things to come out of my grief and depression. I have not been stuck in the tar of depression since April of 2009 and I believe that through therapy, I was able to do so. I can now talk about my dad without tearing up and getting triggered. I’ve learned how to express my emotions, instead of keeping them bottled up. It’s amazing how much difference that has made in my life.
Overcoming depression is a constant battle that I have to fight, but therapy and self-care have made that battle possible. It takes a lot of work, but with that work I was able to become the happy, well-adjusted twenty-one year old that I am today. I am still learning a lot about myself through therapy and through my grieving process. There are days where my depression tries to sneak back into my life but I know that I can now overcome those days with the coping skills I have learned in the past four years.
Special thanks to Hello Grief community member Annie Walters for sharing this story with us.