Monday, June 10, 2013

We Keep Going


My depression guides me to reach out for help. My loneliness guides me to connect. My fears guide me to act anyway because it must be important if I'm scared of it. Thinking of these uncomfortable emotions as guides helps me somehow.

Lately, when the depression has taken over, I've let it guide me to do whatever feels right*. I'm finding it easier to push against thoughts like "Distract yourself, numb yourself, don't lie around all day, you'll just wallow! Don't be lazy. Don't give in to the feelings." and instead do exactly what my body feels like doing. If it feels like rotting my brain with a Parks and Rec marathon, I do it. If it feels like cocooning in bed in the middle of the day, I do it. Get dinner delivered rather than cook? Yup. Leave the laundry and clutter and dishes until some unknown day when my energy returns? Sure. 

As I succumb to the things my body says it wants, I realize more and more that if I just do what I need, I pass through the stage faster than if I push against it, trying to ignore the messages I'm getting.

Sure, if I stayed extremely busy I might skim over some of these feelings throughout the day, but they always return. I have to tackle them anyway. Taking them on, all at once, instead of one little sip at at time can feel overwhelming and scary, but it's never permanent. I always shift back to the world of the living. I always emerge.

Interestingly, when I do emerge, I feel like I've really conquered something. Not just the fleeting pangs of grief that poke through a busy day, but full-on Tsunami waves of loss and heartbreak, desperate fear and hopelessness. I realize that I did that. I got through that. The emotions didn't kill me, though they felt like they certainly would. They were actually thoughts about feelings and they were mostly about the past or future, not the immediate moment.

My immediate situation is hard, very hard. It's missing someone I spent almost half my life with. But it's also evidence of how much I've survived, how hard I've worked to rebuild this life and what a fucking warrior I am. If my thoughts remain on my current situation, I see that I'm not in immediate danger (though the anxiety makes me feel like I am), that I'm surviving, that I'm loving harder, accepting myself more, listening more, feeling instead of numbing, and getting up every day to at least attempt to face the heartbreak I still feel at every moment.

*I realize how unique a situation mine is. I don't have to go back to full time work yet, and I'm not raising kids alone, so I have the "luxury" (ha!) of grieving fully when normally I'd be filling my days with work and kid-raising. I know this is rare and I'm fully aware of how many of you have to work full time AND some. This is just my personal experience within this life of mine.

On the other hand, I've noticed lately that being alone is harder than ever, I'm more and more envious of families with children and often tears spring to my eyes before I know what's happening when I witness little nuclear families. I have less career-related motivation than ever and have a harder time figuring out what it is I even want to do with my life.

So, that's my reality as I begin year 3 of this crazy new life. It is a life so completely different than my former life that I often shake my head in disbelief as I look around me. Other than the love of my Dave, I've kept so little of that old life. In many ways, that has helped me move forward. A fresh start and new viewpoints were what I needed. On the other hand, the old life sometimes feels like an illusion. Did I imagine that? Or am I imagining this new life?

I just keep plodding on. My mantra is "Just show up" and sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. My other mantra is "He wouldn't want you to give up" and I can say with conviction that I haven't. Each day I get to wake up and try again, I do. All of us going through this can say that. That is our superpower. We keep going.


  1. Another great post, Cassie! I feel empowered!

  2. I tear up, too, seeing older couples hand in hand, or just last night, the couple embracing at the ice cream stand as I drove many little triggers always in your face.
    I try to remember all the good years I had with him, but it always comes back to what it is now, the nothingness facing me every day, especially at days end. "He wouldn't want you to give up"...we talked about this prior to his death, I was always crying at the thought of it, but know he expected me to embrace life again and keep going w/o him. Just have to keep plodding forwrd too.

  3. Totally feel you on the nuclear family. The more I see couples and little children together, the more my heart aches to achieve the dream of having a husband and children of my own, and also aches that I was not able to have children with my late husband. It kills me.

    1. It kills me too. Yesterday at the park, surrounded by the most adorable young families (I swear it was a movie set I'd wandered into) I got so overwhelmed that I let out an involuntary sob. It was loud, too. I felt lost in a sea of family and belonging. It's something I took for granted when Dave was alive. I don't take it for granted anymore, that's for sure. Now I see it as a fucking miracle I may never get to be a part of.

    2. heart literally cracks in my chest when I see little kids wrapping their tiny arms around moms necks, or dads carrying their babies in their baby bjorns. Definitely hurts most when I am with my niece and nephew (9 and 11 years old) and think "By the time i find someone new, realize he's the one, settle down, get married and have kids, their cousins will practically be adults :("

      And yes, I remember when he'd ask if we can have a baby and I just didn't feel financially ready. Or I just started a new job and can't possibly take that type of time off so soon. Or I'm just too young (back then). Now in the 30's an no sight of anyone good enough to be labelled "husband" again. It's a scary feeling and I don't like it one bit.

  4. Even if my story is different than yours - and in that sense cannot be compared with yours at all - I want you to know, that I reached the place where I am today - where the self-love and the love of life in my heart makes me smile with joy when I see a happy couple... I reached that place by embracing my loneliness fully and completely... Like what you describe above, it's more than just moving through it - it is a process that transforms your life. Even if it takes years.

    You're on your way, Cassie, and I believe in your way.

    1. Halina, this is wonderful news. It's good to know that day will come again, when I see happy couples it will make me smile with joy! I'm striving every day to get to that good place, it's like a roller coaster ride

  5. Well done! I think I tried to do all the "expected" things for the first year and it almost killed me...most of the expectations were my own! Then I did started listening what my body needed and it would pass more quickly...i spent many hours watching repeats of Judging Amy during the days while my then 7 year old was at school. I did my best each day and most days just getting up and breathing was all i could do. I'm now over eight years out and can look back and know that because I sat in the sadness, listened to my body, mind, soul and let my children be my guide about their grief, we are thriving again. I think the only way for me was to straight though all of matter how long it took me to get the dishes done! :)

  6. Your post echoes things I've realized just recently, after losing my husband 3 1/2 yrs ago, then my mom 6 months later, and struggling through each day since. I even piled on moving a few times and fixing up an old house, getting another degree on top of all the losses and challenges I already had including a son who struggles with the loss of his Daddy each day and is angry about it. I now see I was just trying to cope in my own way, but really all I was doing was burying myself in complete exhaustion and depriving my son and myself of the "healed" me that I needed to become. I recently allowed myself to sit and watch tv or read a book without continually "accomplishing things" and discovered that many of my health issues were already vanishing. I was losing some of the 30 pounds I had put on and my skin was clearing up. It was just stress! I know now that perhaps it is okay to give in to the feelings of wanting to just "be" and let the anxiety pass me. I can still be here for my son, and maybe even more so, without fighting myself. Without my husband around to balance me, I've been my own worst enemy. Its just hard to allow myself to let go when I never have been able to before.