Wednesday, January 4, 2012

At First I Was Really Ticked ....

                                                 picture from here

.... but now I'm feeling "normal" (I wanted to write that I was feeling "Pissed", but I didn't want to offend some of you by putting that in the title.  If it offends you in parenthesis .... I apologize).

A few months after Jim died it became clear to me that I needed to see my doctor, and I needed to see her quickly ..... about starting antidepressants.
I had never been on them before in my life.
I didn't know anything about them.
The one thing that I did know is that if I didn't see her soon, and get some help, I might not live another week.

And so I went.
And it became clear to her that I needed to be on them.
And so I started taking them.
And soon started feeling much more "balanced".
Not happy.  Still grieving.  But able to handle it.

That was almost 4 years ago.
This past fall I weaned off of those meds back in August/September.
And did really well.
For a while.

And then I did not.
I started sliding downhill around Thanksgiving.
But I knew that holiday .... and all of December, were going to be difficult and so I dug in my heels and decided that I'd just wait it out.
Because surely I'd be much better after New Year's.

Fortunately, I have been able to recognize when I am about to jump off of a cliff.
It was almost too late this time, because I kept thinking I just had to get past December.
I made it to Christmas Eve.
And then the meds came back out.
Just in time.
I would not have made it past New Year's.

I had been spiraling downwards, further and further, the entire month of December.
I finally knew that I couldn't wait it out.
And so I threw in the towel.
And .... not only was I incredibly depressed .... I was hugely pissed.
I still am .... a little.

I'm pissed that, not only did I have to lose half of my heart when Jim died, but I had to physically and emotionally lose at least half of who I was.
I'm pissed that not only did grief exist in my life, but it physically changed my body ..... and the chemical makeup of my brain.
I think having a dead husband should be enough to suffer through .... enough of a change to have to endure.
But I guess my thinking isn't what always happens.

So now I am back on my meds .... and as of about one week ago, I'm feeling normal. Well, normal for me, that is.
One week ago today, was the first day that I didn't cry.  Not once, let alone most of the day.
And I haven't cried since ..... not from that cold, enveloping blackness anyway.
And I'm feeling happy again.
And seeing things through much clearer lenses.

And I'm thankful.
Thankful that we have these kinds of medications available and thankful that I finally gave in and took them.
And I'm thankful to feel happy again.
And normal.

But I'm still angry.
Angry that I have to take them, and probably always will, when the "before Janine" never needed them.
And I'm angry that our society doesn't always recognize the chemical need that a brain has to stay balanced.
But mostly?  Mostly I'm angry that most people don't realize that they need help .... that their loved ones don't notice, or don't know what to do even if they notice .... until it's too late.
It angers me that our society doesn't know as much about depression ..... and how to recognize it, or what to do about it ..... as much as we know about the iPhone.

And it angers me that some factions of our society claim that depression doesn't really exist, that there's no need for antidepressants, and that it's all a sham.
That angers me a lot.

And though I know that I'm going out on a limb here .... it angers me that people who commit suicide are labeled as "incredibly selfish".
Because I don't agree.  I know that most of them were just unable to live one more minute with the pain inside of them.  And most of them probably thought that their loved ones would be much better off if they didn't have to deal with someone who not only is in constant pain, who couldn't see an end to the pain and the "blackness", but who was also dragging everyone down with them.

We need to know more.
Much more.
And I hope that one day soon ..... we will.

As for me, I'm a lot more happy than I am angry or sad now.
I'm back to feeling more like me.
And this was the first time that I looked forward to New Year's since 2006/2007.
And that's too damn long.

I won't' say "Happy New Year" to you .... because I remember how much I hated hearing "Happy" anything ..... for quite a while.
But I will wish you comfort and peace and wonderful memories to treasure.
And I will remind you that you are NOT alone.
And that your grief will get easier to carry.
One day at a time.


  1. Janine, thank you for such an honest post that really hit home with me. When my husband died suddenly in March of 2010, I went on antidepressants, even though everything I had read suggested that wasn't such a good idea. I was ticked/pissed off too! The meds did help me to feel balanced. I still cried and felt the pain but was functioning. I decided in September of 2011 to come off of the meds. I slipped quickly and kept wondering how I would make it through another day. So, I have returned to the antidepressants with no shame or dishonor despite the societal negative press.

    Funny, that my husband believed suicide victims (cause that is what they are - of a chemical imbalance) were/are selfish people. I agreed with him until his death. I truly understand the depth of such grave despair.

    Thank you again!

  2. Oh, Janine. I could have written your post. I too went off my med for a while, after I had been on them for about a year and a half. I felt myself spiraling down and did not want to be in that place again, so back on the med I went. Recently I have even increased the dose because I was starting to have the black thoughts more. I am feeling more like myself again, thank goodness. It is hard to accept I need this medication, but I do. I didn't need it "before." I was a naturally positive and happy person. Grief did something to me that I need some help with now. Thank you for being so open and putting yourself out there for all of us. It really does help.

  3. Janine,

    Thanks for this post, which I learned about through a friend on Twitter.
    First of all, I am so happy that you are better. That's the most important thing of all.
    Thanks for being honest about the pain, the need for treatment, the difficulty of it all, and the need for perseverance in order to stay well.
    Thanks for not dismissing out of hand treatments that might very well have saved your life.
    Thanks for helping to fight the battle against stigma, against fear and against ignorance.
    Keep fighting. Life is worth it, after all, even after tragedy.
    By the way, I'm a psychiatrist, and your post just made my day.

  4. Thanks for your post, they always seem to come at the right time . My husband died in a motorcycle accident in June 2009. This holiday season was brutal.
    My only child, now 16 years old, has been in the denial mode of dealing with his father's death. He became severely depressed this fall. I have had him in inpatient and intensive outpatient therapy. He is less depressed and not hurting himself any longer, and current medication seems to be helping??? I pray so, I have never felt so helpless in my life. I thought that dealing with my husband death would be the hardest thing I would ever experience, but being unable to fix my boy has been worse. I am considering starting on antidepressants myself. I wish you comfort and peace too.

  5. I suffered from panic attacks in my 20's, so I am familiar with "chemical imbalances". I never felt any stigma taking any kind of medication that made those horrible feelings go away. Depression comes with the territory of being a widow. Take what you gotta take to get through the day. I laugh when people worry about addiction to these meds, like that is the worst thing that could ever happen. Haven't we already been through the worst thing that could happen? I also used to feel suicide was the cowards way out. No more. Suicide, to the grieving person, sometimes seems like a very good alternative to what we are feeling at the present moment. Sometimes I still feel that way, and know how strong someone has to be to take their own life. Because to not do so when feeling like you can't go on another minute longer takes great strength. Kudos to all of us for still being here.

  6. Janine as I'm reading your post i don't feel alone I lost my husband. In 2008 due to a accident I have been pissed ,mad, everything in da,book I have had anxiety since I was young and since my loss its gotten worse, I don't feel bad or embarrassed for taking medications I know it won't take my pain away but I'm able to function and move forward ppl don't understand that, depression exsists they make, others believe ""its all in your head" but I'm glad I feel I only take meds for depression thanks Janine

  7. An absolutely an amazing blog. THANK YOU.

  8. Happy (not) new year to you too.

    Meds are there for a reason, and any doctor that knows you should realize that you might need them at this time in your life, perhaps for a long time. I have no qualms about being on meds, whatever helps me through these dark days and on into the lighter side of life again is a necessity. I don't know about you, but I'm leery of going on and staying on any med, I've always tried to live life using as little as I possibly can. But in order to function in society and not go any deeper into depression, a little help is ok in my book.

    I am the one still here, dealing with life on my own, trying to make my way and redefine my life. Everyone thinks I'm doing an amazing job of coping with it all (too bad they're not around at 3 am when I can't sleep); I have a hard time convincing them that I'm barely holding it together some days. It is a fight, and I do think it is worth it to go on, but it is a battle that goes on and on, day after day. I, too, can see how one can turn to suicide as the only way out.

    So whatever treatment works for you, go for it. Nice to read of Greg's comments above. Ditto.

  9. Thank you for your post and honesty. Having never dealt with depression myself "in my before life ", found it hard to understand depression and suicide. Boy, did that change, "in my after" life!
    Grief,depression & it's intensity can bring you places I not only didn't once understand, but couldn't imagine for myself. I surely went into depression and wanted to commit suicide and actually had a plan, but for one reason or another it didn't happen, can't say that I'm happy about still being here but I am.....the stigma of a weak or selfish person is SO wrong!!! It's over two years for me and some days are better now, but some days are terrible and it's so easy to feel the pain and loss so deeply and it's such a struggle to continue to go on and get thru those days of such loneliness and despair missing your husband with every fiber of your being.

  10. I've been on antidepressants for 15+ years, and I'm just so thankful that they make them!!

  11. Tears well up as I read these posts. 15 months ago, my life changed when my husband passed. I went from living, to existing. I tried an antidepressant, it didn't work. I tried sleeping pills, still couldn't sleep. The only thing that kept me from suicide was the thought that I wouldn't be with him after death. I truly have felt my life did drag down those that loved me. I'm so allergic to medications that I've been afraid to try more. I tried a group therapy for 3 weeks. One woman said she was relieved her husband died and never cried! She was in therapy to see if she was normal. One was there to "get out and with people" she never talked about her husband, and one was there because her mom in her 90's had passed. I couldn't relate to them, nor did they with me and my constant tears. I am going to give mess another try. I can relate to widows in real pain. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you for your honesty, Janine. Four and a half years after Bill died, just two nights ago, I finally said out loud: "I think I'm depressed, and I think I need to take something for it." It was both liberating (even though I've only just made an appointment) and sad to me to admit this. But it also gave me a sense of hope of feeling "normal" again, and allowed me to finally realize that seeking help is something that is in my control; thinking or talking myself out of it (the depression, that is) is not in my control.

    Wishing you a blessed 2012.


  13. What you have posted today is so important in terms of education and awareness. As a counselor and widowed person (two years) I get it. My daily professional life is working with people who have various diagnoses and most are taking meds. I also do my share of suicide assessments and meet many people who are suffering with depression. The brain is an organ and as such, can be dysfunctional like any other organ, and medication can be extremely helpful in correcting inbalances. In my experience I find that many people are ignorant of this fact and find any type of mental dysfunction mysterious and scary. So thanks for spreading the word that anyone can benefit from getting the help they need when they need it. Thank God the meds and the help are available. In terms of being widowed, I too wish that friends and family understood that grief does not disappear quickly and support is needed for several years, we don't just "get on with it" after six months or a year and forget about it. It seems that people forget very quickly that we are living in a surreal state and are struggling. I still feel like I'm living somebody elses' life....

  14. Janine; a beautiful honest and amazing post. I too am on meds and although I badger my therapist constantly about when I can get off of them I know deep down that I need them and am ok with the thought I might never get off of them. To anonymous commenter above who tried meds and they didn't work and is so allergic and tried group and it didn't work - I too am allergic to all kinds of things and it took several tries to finally get something that worked for me and didn't make me worse. Please consider retrying. If you have a good doctor who knows your allergies and sensitivities you should be able to figure something out. Also have you considered individual therapy? I have tried groups that DID help (one through hospice where we were all more similar) and ones who haevn't. I take my kids to a grief center, they love it but I hate it - all I can do to make it through the night without screaming - people are there for all different reasons. But I found a wonderful 1:1 therapist who has made a HUGE difference.
    again, thank you Janine for you honesty and willingness to discuss this in the open. You have done so much good for so many by your posts.

  15. I have been on meds for the last 20 years and probably wouldn't be alive if a friend hadn't seen my anguish and recommended therapy. At first my husband fought the idea; he didn't want to accept that I could have a "mental illness." After meds and therapy he told me to never go off the pills! There is no way I could be dealing with losing him if I was not given the tools I got through therapy and medication. As for suicide I agree with you; it isn't selfish, if you haven't been where I and others who have suffered have been, you have no idea how much pain there is and how tired you get of feeling nothing but pain and anguish. Anyway, no one should be afraid of seeking help.

  16. I am 6 and half years out. He died suddenly on Fathers day morning on top of me. I was 42 then. Like you, I went on the antidepressants right around 4 months or so out. Only thing is, I am staying on them. I grieved, and boy did I grieve hard. Even with the antidepressants. I am now feeling ok. For the last year or so I am. But I delude myself into thinking that I can go off of them. I probably needed them before he died, in fact I am sure I did need them. My life is pretty good with the exception of dating. I've tried and tried and tried. Nobody out there is good enough. I suspect that because my husband dying on me while making love isn't helping either. But I had a great husband and life/marriage and what I have met out 49 the good ones are taken. Thank you for writing this blog!!

  17. Your words, my thoughts. All of them. I'm pissed too... probably always will be. But I don't want to kill myself any more - at least not right now.

    Thank you.

  18. Janine, I too hate the fact that I HAVE to be on antidepressants. I was on them prior to losing my husband, but being on them now makes me feel weak. I feel like I should have the chance to cry and be upset that he is gone. I feel like the meds keep me from feeling. I even would not take any of my prescribed xanax for his viewing and funeral. I didn't want to be doped up. I wanted to remember everything. My "friends" kept advising me to take it because I wouldn't be able to handle it(the funeral) without it(xanax). I felt like I honored Tom by not being doped up at the funeral. I even sang Amazing Grace without a problem that day. As for today, I can't think of the words without crying. I can't think of any songs that he liked without crying. I decided to take care of me this year. I'm starting back on my meds again. I see my doctor Monday to get his advice and a new prescription. Thanks for saying what so many of us have a hard time getting others to understand.
    Here's to a better year!

  19. Amazing post. I was on antidepressants before my Dave died for various reasons but I still relate so much to what you said here. Thank you.

  20. The thing about depression is----life goes on whether we like it or not.

    In my years of having the depression monster on my back, I finally gave in and took meds. I thought I was healed then went off. After a couple of years of doing the on and off game, I decided I would take them forever if I needed to.

    Depression meds keep me stable. Without my meds I would not be able to cope with life and would succumb to the act of suicide.

    I thank God for every day he gives me life because yes, it is a gift. Many do not make it to another day. I thank God for my medication to be able to enjoy another day.

    I have so many reasons to be depressed but choose to live because life goes on whether we want it to or not.

    I have grieved the loss of my husband thru divorce, the loss of my brother and losing both parents within three days of each other.

    My heart hurts. I could not have made it thru all of these tragedies in one year without my meds and the guidance and comfort from our almighty God.

    It is his plan, not ours, what happens.

    I know it is going to take time with missing all so much but I am gonna make it and am trying very hard to be the person I am suppose to be.

    I liked me and want to get back to that person. I see a future for me but I don't know what it is right now.

    Everyone tells you how sorry they are for you and what great people your lost ones were but don't you think that the only thing you want to hear is, "Everything is going to be ok"?

    My thoughts to anyone who goes on suffering with depression--get help now and quit suffering.
    Take your meds. Only you can take care of yourself.
    Be good to yourself. Only you can make yourself happy.
    Be the great person you know you are.

    Don't be in a hurry to look for another husband or boyfriend. God will send you someone when God thinks you are ready not when you think you are ready. He has a plan for you...

    Here's to a better year filled with feelings of comfort and love♥♥

  21. Thank you. I don't think shame can survive in the light and you just shined a little more light on the shame that none of us should feel for needing some help with our brain chemistry.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing. It has been 7 years since my husband passed away and suddenly out of the blue, major depression hit me. I couldn't control the crying, wasn't motivated to get out of bed, etc...all those things I - and I think everyone around me - expected during year 1. It took me completely by surprise and thankfully my mother-in-law came to visit one weekend, took one look at me, and made me promise I would go see a dr. that following Monday. A dear friend that has had bouts of depression her entire life also spotted some of the signs and made the appointment for me. If it were not for these two women stepping in and helping, I don't know what would have happened. My children knew something wasn't right but they obviously are not in a position to do anything. I reluctantly took the meds....but was surprised what a difference they made just a few days later. My son told me I seemed normal again....and to be honest, it was the first time I felt "normal" in years. I suppose the depression was always there just building but I never understood my anxiety, lack of patience, etc as signs.

    We are all in this situation due to a tragedy that we would never expect others to handle easily yet somehow we all feel it should be manageable for ourselves. I am so appreciative of you sharing your experience....and all those that have commented. It is refreshing to know that I am not alone!

    I still have sadness - and think I always will - but at least it is manageable and not consuming.

    Hear is to a fabulous 2012!

  23. Barbara, I'm so glad that those 2 women recognized what they saw and spoke up. That's true love. And I'm glad you followed their advice and started the meds. They are a miracle in my life. To be able to step out of that cold, black as ink, lonely cave and into the light .... and feel happiness again, is nothing short of a miracle to me. I hope truly do have a fabulous 2012. :)

    To everyone single commenter: Thank you SO much for letting ME know that I am not alone. I rarely plan what I'm going to write about, I usually just sit at my keyboard, think for no more that 5 minutes .... and then watch my fingers fly as they write what's in my head. I never know if it's going to something that connects with you .... or not. I am oftentimes amazed at the number of you who comment. I truly feel that, at least for this time in my life, this is my calling. To somehow let you know that you are NOT alone. Or crazy. Or wrong.
    We are all very, very normal ..... in a very, very abnormal situation. We are all just trying to survive ..... in a life that we don't really care to survive. At least for a while.
    Thank you so much for commenting and giving me your love and support.
    It means more than you can know. We writers are oftentimes flying blind out here ..... not knowing if our words will make a difference. When you tell us that they do .... it makes our grief just a little easier to bear. It helps to know that, even in the worst event of our lives, we can make something positive from it.
    Each one of you ..... including ALL of the non-commenting Lurkers .... ROCK!
    And you make a difference in this world.
    Keep breathing.
    And keep your eyes on the person in front of you.
    You are loved.

  24. Such a great post and insightful comments. I am a widow due to a suicide. I didn't even know that my husband was depressed. I battle the guilt of that every day and struggle to keep myself from going down the road of depression. My friends and family also think I'm doing so good, but I know the true inner battle we all fight. This is one of the reasons that I try to always be kind to never know who is fighting inner demons. Your simple smile or kind act could mean the world to someone who is having a completely craptastic day. I know that many days a stranger's kindness has made all the difference for me.

  25. My husband was killed on his way to work a little over a year ago. I have been soldiering on since then, trying to manage my life and my pain as though every day were a new puzzle to solve: how do I get out of bed? How do I motivate to do the chores? How do I convince myself to get to work? How do I make my kids believe we are still a family and I will be there for them? I have been offered antidepressants by my doctor, but I don't know what they would change. I have been told that grief is not depression, and that antidepressants don't treat grief. So my question is: what are the symptoms that made you decide you needed the meds, and what specifically did they help? What remained the same, and what changed?
    Having been one who opted for natural childbirth, I keep asking myself, is this just something I'm supposed to live through and experience, or is there something really wrong with me that medication can fix?

  26. To the January 16th anon ....
    Thank you for writing. And for being open and honest about your feelings and your grief. I think that different people have different symptoms, but there are a few commonalities. I knew that I needed them when the thought of what my suicide would do to my children .... didn't matter. I figured that my children, and everyone else in my life, would be better off if I weren't here. I thought that my kids might be sad for a brief moment in time, but that they'd get over it.
    I could not imagine a future .... of any kind. All I could see was cold, lonely blackness ahead of me. I didn't look forward to anything ..... I just wanted to stop existing. I think there's a normal "wanting to be dead" for most widowed people in the early months. It's not that we would do anything to cause our death, but if a truck happened to jump the curb while we were walking on a sidewalk one day ..... and slam into us, killing us instantly ..... that wouldn't be a bad thing. That is a normal part of grieving the death of the most important person in our life.
    But going past that ..... and thinking how you might work out your own death .... is a huge sign of depression ...... and that you need help. Especially because many people who have thought that ..... don't plan their suicides out. They just sometimes "snap" ..... and it happens.
    Another symptom is feeling that you can't live with the emotional pain and grief for one more day. You cannot fathom having to feel that way for the rest of your life and so you'd do anything to make it end.
    As far as being able to motivate yourself ..... there will be some days that you just can't.
    I think most people manage to get out of bed .... or follow their normal schedule .... because of their children. In fact, their children are the only reason that they do continue to exist.
    Grief may not be depression, but depression can certainly come from grief. And anti depressants treat depression ..... even depression that comes from grief. The death of my husband is the one and only reason that I became depressed. It came from nowhere or nothing else. Grief can change the chemistry in your brain and in your body. Grief is more powerful that most people know ..... or believe.
    Anti depressants do not "cure" grief. They do not cause you to stop grieving. But they do help make the grief more manageable. They can lighten the "blackness". They can help you see things more clearly ..... and realize that death is not the answer. You will still grieve. You will still be sad. You will still mourn. But you will start realizing that all of that is normal .... and that it won't last forever.
    I hope that I've helped you in some small way. As I said, everyone has different symptoms and I cannot diagnosis anyone. I can only tell you that antidepressants saved my life.
    And depression is NOT something you are expected to live through and experience. Not when it threatens to take your life.
    I think these meds are nothing short of a miracle. And someone needing to take them is no different that a diabetic needing to take insulin. They both save lives.
    I'm praying for you.