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Monday, November 8, 2010

Why am I feeling like this?

Life is quite interesting and you never know what is in store for you.  It's Monday, back to work, in my case also back to school.  I have two classes on Monday, my psychology in the morning and Thanatology in the evening.  

In my psychology class we discussed some of the anxiety and mood disorders.  I listened as the professor discussed the phobias, and compulsions that accompany some of the disorders, thinking okay, I have some of these characteristics.  Actually we all do.  It is when it interferes with our lives that it becomes a true issue.  

This section also covers depression, and as I listened to some of the signs of depression, I remembered how tangible it was to me.  At one point I shared my experience with depression.  I began to speak about my bout with depression, how it had left me so tired.  The worst of it being the physical pain that it caused.  I shared how intense it felt, how everything hurt, and how so aware I was of every part of my body.  

Depression is a very normal part of grief, you have to remember that you have just been hit by a Mack truck, or what feels like a truck.  For me it was as if not one part of my body was left unscathed.  I remember how simple tasks felt as if I were trying to lift an elephant.  How stairs felt like mountains.  How picking up my coffee cup was like trying lift weights.  It is so unbelievable.  Of course the racing thoughts were unstoppable, and of would start up when I would try to get some sleep.  It seemed the more I tried to quiet myself down, the more intense my thoughts became.  

The strangest part was actually being able to hear the blood pumping through my veins, it was as if I was listening to an ultrasound of my body.  These types of things can lead you to believe you are going crazy, and I definitely felt as if I was.  Once I knew that this was all a result of depression, I began to understand what was happening to me.  

In The Science of Psychology by Laura A. King; there are nine symptoms associated with depression, 'of which at least five must be present during a 2-week period:'
  1. Depressed mood most of the day
  2. Reduced interest or pleasure in all or most activities
  3. Significant weight loss or gain or significant decrease or interest in appetite
  4. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  5. Psychomotor agitation or retardation (lethargic)
  6. Fatigue or loss of energy
  7. Feeling worthless or guilty in an excessive or inappropriate manner
  8. Problems in thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  9. Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
Right after Rachel died and the initial shock had warn off, I began to experience some the the symptoms of depression.  I had never experienced a loss so deep, so even if I had experienced depression before, I probably just dealt with it and moved on.  But this was different.  When I finally spoke to my doctor, I had several of the above listed symptoms.  I had very little interest in activities, I was definitely having trouble sleeping, I would wake up tired, and have absolutely no energy.  I had so many problems trying to think, concentrate or even just trying to decide what was for dinner.   But the most difficult part was the pain, I was in so much pain.  

My depression was a result of Rachel's death, and trying to come to grips with it.  Dealing with the death of a loved one is one cause, going through a divorce, moving, losing your job, financial burdens, are just a few of the events in our lives that can trigger depression.  It is a very normal reaction to major life events.  

The concern comes when we can no longer function.  I was home a year after Rachel's death, I couldn't go back to work.  I would never have lasted more than a month or two, and looking back, thank God I did.  I was totally useless in that first year.  

I didn't stop taking care of my self, I would bathe everyday and get dressed and at least try, often thinking, maybe today I'll get something done.  Occasionally  the thought would cross my mind that I could stop the pain by ending it all, but that was all it was, just a thought.  

If you are experiencing anything you are unfamiliar with, or behaving in ways that are foreign to you, speak to your doctor.  They can help you work your way through depression, if necessary give you some medication to help with the anxiety that is caused, and help you understand that what you are going through is normal.  There are also great counselors and support groups that can help walk with you during this difficult time. 

If you find yourself dwelling on death or suicide, please talk to someone immediately, they can help you through the darkness.  If you find yourself unable to function, or having no concern for your physical well-being and appearance, seek help.  Depression can be very debilitating, and can cause serious health issues if left unchecked.  

Depression is not anything to be ashamed of, or to feel inadequate about.  It is a very normal part of any grief producing event, depression does eventually begin to lift, and you begin to experience life again.  You find interest in activities and social events.  You begin to feel more energetic, tasks seem less daunting, and you begin to have the energy again to do simple things.  

You will smile again, laugh again, and take pleasure in all that life has to offer.  Know that you are not alone, and that you can and should reach out to someone, letting them walk with you on your journey.

Most importantly you are not 'crazy,' you are a very normal person going through some very abnormal circumstances.  You have every right to feel depressed, to feel sad, to hurt, and to feel confused and lost.  You are dealing with so much.

The pain begins to subside and you begin to feel the warmth of acceptance, of healing.  You begin to learn how to live again.  Yes, you will still miss your loved one, still long for their presence, and wish it was just a bad dream.  But in time the healing begins, and you will smile in remembrance of all they brought into your life.  The gift that only they could give, and the love that will last for all eternity.

Blessings! and until we meet again.

King, Laura; (2009),  Depressive Disorders, Ch. 13, p. 539; The Science of Psychology: An Appreciative View Study;
            (1st  Ed); McGraw-Hill, New York, NY


  1. Rose Mary it seems many of us manage to skirt around depression with both a cancer diagnosis and grief. Often it takes time to recognise. That is where I believe groups, to be well run, benefit from having professional counsellors. We unload lots in group sessions and often end up taking our own home along with 'baggage' of others.
    Love and gratitude

  2. Yes, Chez, most people avoid the topic altogether, thinking it will all go away. But those dark days seem never ending. I know that seeing my counselor made a world of difference for me. She allowed me to 'unload' my burden without judgment, she helped me to know that I was going to be okay.

    Definitely yes, to when anyone receives a diagnosis of cancer or any other life altering illness or disease, they very much go into a depressive state. This is when it is very important to find like-minded people who help you, who support you, and give you a shoulder to cry on when needed.

    As for support groups, I believe for me, that I had to find a group that would work for me. Sometimes the first support group is not always the right fit. When I found myself coming home with more than I had carried in, I knew I was in the wrong place. I eventually found groups with shared empathy, who filled me with hope, gave me courage to face tomorrow, and to let me know it was okay to hurt, to feel, and who did not try to stop me when I cried. I would leave these groups carrying only hope, encouragement, love and a knowledge that I too could make it, that I would survive. The key is to not give up after the first attempt or two. Even with counseling, if the first person you see leaves you feeling unsettled, it is okay to seek out someone else. Thank you.

    Blessings! Love, Rose Mary