Monday, August 19, 2013

Dark Shadow


Depression. It's my dark shadow. I've been living with it since my late teens. Even so, it can still trick me.

For the last few weeks I've been under its spell and up until today I didn't realize it. Instead of seeing the depression as the REASON I feel as though everything is hopeless and life sucks, I have been thinking that I'm depressed BECAUSE everything is hopeless and life sucks. It's a big distinction but depression has an incredibly convincing way of telling me terrible things and getting me to believe them all.

Complicating all of this is that my sweet husband died and even after more than two years, I miss him all the time. Grief and sadness and depression are all tangled up at times, and so hard to sort out.

But what I can see now (even still in the depression - though it might be lightening a bit now) is that there have been times (even after he died) when I didn't feel that everything was hopeless and my life sucked. I never once felt as though my life wasn't hard and painful and full of grief, but it wasn't hopeless and it didn't completely suck. It contained incredible lifelong friends, nature, new wonderful people, a home, the financial freedom to not have to struggle to find work again, relatively good health, a picturesque neighborhood, the chance to start over career-wise, travel, writing, art and even the opportunity for new love.

Under the black veil of depression, though, at times, my mind told me that none of it mattered and it was too hard to go on. When the veil lifted I could see that the depression had been talking.

And that is what has happened to me again. I fell for it again. Which is a testament to how powerful a force depression can be.

I have to remember to take care of it like any illness. Get as much sleep as I can, eat as well as possible, surround myself with people who can love on me, take my meds, give myself compassion.

This time, again, I forgot about this momentarily. I tried hard to be happy. I tried not to be a bummer. I tried to be something I couldn't be. I thought the fake-it-till-I-make it strategy might work. I felt ashamed for being so sad. It can't be fun to be around someone this sad, right?

Then again, I am sad. I'm terribly sad. I can't fake a different mindset or push myself to be what I'm not. I'm also worthy of love and compassion from myself and others and I definitely haven't been giving those to myself. I've been hard on myself. I questioned my character and wished I could be different. Someone who can feel happiness, silliness and joy.

I am that person once the depression lifts, but right now, the depression has a hold on me and I can't blame myself for it.

It's the depression to fight, not my self. My self is still there. My funny, nerdy, loving, silly self is there. Once the veil lifts, there it will be. It's not the self from before Dave died. She died that day, too. It's a different self, but one I think is pretty great too.

I just have to remember that when my dark shadow whispers so convincingly that I'm not good enough and that everything sucks.


  1. "I tried hard to be happy. I tried not to be a bummer. I tried to be something I couldn't be."

    Been doing that too. Just yesterday, at a family gathering, I felt so odd, so out of place, trying to fit in with all the happy faces. I had to leave, sneaking out, not even able to say "thank you" to the host, my husband's aunt, who's own husband is dying, and sat on the porch watching the activity of his grandchildren. I couldn't talk to him with everyone around, he sees me where I'm at, as I am, still grieving. I'm hoping this thing called depression will run its course; that course is different for each of us, and we can't beat ourselves up for taking what seems like an eternity to move on. Take care of you, Cassie. I'm hoping the sun will shine for all of us one day.

  2. Cassie, you are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for. To publish this very honest post was exceptionally brave and helps the rest of us to not feel so weak. Like everyone else I paint that smile on my face even when my heart is splintering. Depression and grief still gang up on me 3.5 years later. It is all so complicated and I have learned that sometimes I just go with the punches. If I need to be sad, then so be it, I am sad. Like you said, somedays we just can't be that more desirable person! Oh well!

    Thanks again Cassie! I hope your sunshine is just around the bend!

  3. After the unexpected death of my husband in 2000, I fell into a dark place. Two years later the grief and sadness got the best of me. I too tried to put on that happy face, hide the tears for the sake of others. Depression is a skilled trickster, it can catch you off guard. Even two years out I found it hard to go on and sometimes, I really didn't want to. I tried faking happiness, acted "normal" and buried the grief hoping it would stay there. It didn't and roared it's ugly head until I finally hit the wall and found help. It is an illness that affects our health and mental well being.

    The good news is I'm alive, healthy and happy today. It's hard to accept that it takes time to heal, sometimes years, but eventually the sadness softens. You're headed in the right direction, Cassie, eat, sleep, surround yourself with those you love and be kind to yourself. Know that others are there for you. Sunny days are ahead!

    Author of Twenty-Eight Snow Angels A Widow's Story of Love, Loss and Renewal.

  4. First time responder here, although long time reader. I can totally relate to your message, Cassie, all except that my depression didn't start until the last year or so. I think the first year I was numb and in a fog, and the second year is when reality - and depression - hit. I've just passed the two year mark and don't feel like I've made much progress in rebuilding my life although I'm trying. Friends say they think I have come a long way but I think they only see me when I'm in my "forced happy" public mode.

    Yes there are good moments, and good days, but somehow the overwhelming sadness takes over and I find myself just feeling so hollow again.

    I try to remind myself how fortunate I was to have this magnificent man as my husband, but somehow the memories and gratefulness aren't enough to keep me content. And then that makes me feel guilty, for I know there are others whose situations are worse than mine but they seem to be coping much better. I just miss him so much.

    I guess we just have to hang on, keep taking one baby step forward at a time, and hope that as more time passes we'll find peace and contentment again.

    Thank you all for being here, I absorb support from your comments and it helps to know that I'm not alone.

  5. Thank you for this posting. It's how I feel too. My husband passed away suddenly 15 months ago and I started having panic attacks and began taking medication for anxiety. Last week my doctor said he doesn't think the meds are working and switched me an anti-depressant.

    I was trying to help organize things last night for our two daughters - the oldest is 20 and in college and the youngest is 16 and just started her junior year of high school yesterday and I though that's it's hard doing things by myself.

    Today after reading your entry I realized that my current life is built for 2. 2 parents, 2 kids, 2 pets, 2-story house, 2 cars, 2 incomes. But it's now just me as one parent and a single income.

    Every morning I look forward to reading these stories and it makes me know that I am not alone. Others who have lost partners, spouses, loved ones and are going through all the same feelings and emotions.And I hope we will all feel better soon.