Saturday, January 17, 2015
Disconnected by Pain
Last weekend, both my sister and my best friend were out of town on (separate) family holidays when my grief decided it might be a good time to roll on up and knock me around for a bit. Knowing I was in for a quiet weekend, I had set myself a few tasks around the house and planned to lay low, catch up on laundry and housework, do some cooking for the week and fit in a gym session or two.
However when I woke up on Saturday morning, with the weekend stretching before me, the feeling of loneliness was heavy and the emptiness filled my bedroom. I am usually quite comfortable spending time alone and quite enjoy my own company, so it’s not unusual for me to have a weekend by myself. But I think that knowing my two ‘go-to people’ were unavailable if I started feeling lost or down, opened the door to that horrible realisation that my person is gone and I am on my own.
By midday on Sunday the tears had been falling almost non-stop all weekend, I had achieved none of the chores I’d set myself and had lost a significant number of hours just staring at the wall and waiting for time to pass. I was in a deep depression and felt disconnected from the rest of the world. The idea of returning to work Monday morning was actually looking appealing. Yep, things were that grim!
Somewhere in the depths of my logical brain, I knew the fog that had settled would lift again. I knew there was light and hope and happiness out there somewhere, it was just out of reach in that moment so I had to buckle up and wait for it to pass.
Luckily, mid-week I started doing better and am feeling ok now but when I caught up with another friend and mentioned that I’d had a bad few days, she asked why I hadn’t called her. It was so hard to explain. I’ve never been very good at asking for help and the grief complicates this even more, because no one can make it so that Dan didn’t die and bring back my old life.
I’m lucky that my sister and my best friend know me well enough to sense when I’ve gone a bit quiet or usually hear the strain in my voice when I lie that ‘I’m ok’, and just turn up to sit with me and talk it out. But even with them it takes a considerable amount of effort to show them my pain.
In my head, it’s like I’m so miserable and sad, I just can’t bring myself to subject other people to that. I don’t even know what I would say or what I need/want. In my grieving brain, I can’t see the purpose in calling and saying, ‘Oh hi, I’m really sad.’ I mean, what am expecting from them? I feel terrible for putting someone in the position to have to respond to that. It’s not like I’m asking for help moving a heavy piece of furniture, I’m asking them to help me feel less devastated. What a massive thing to ask of someone!
In hindsight I know the act of reaching out always leads me to a better place. Once I connect and start talking I can usually identify whatever particular thought or emotion it is that happens to be taking the floor at that moment and almost always feel a release by just verbalising the pain. But when you’re in that hole, you just can’t see that.
In a way, if I put myself in the company of others, I’d probably just feel pressure to try not to be sad and upset them, so I’d feel compelled to put on my cheerful mask to reassure everyone that I’m ok, and that’s just even more exhausting.
Which lead me to think, I wonder if that’s kind of how Dan felt when his depression passed that point of going beyond being able to reach out. Maybe that’s what stopped him from talking to me that day. Did he think that there was nothing I could do to help him, so he didn’t want to worry me and inflict that on me? Maybe he didn’t want to put that pressure on me – or knew he’d feel compelled to put on his ‘I’m ok’ face and just didn’t have the energy to do that anymore.
I’m not anywhere near as desperate and lost as he must have been feeling, because I’m not suicidal. So it makes me sad to think just how dark that place must have been for him. It’s a cruel disease, depression. The way it feeds you lies and blocks you from getting help. If he had of been suffering from a physical pain, rather than a disease in his brain, he would have had the logic and capacity to communicate how he was feeling and seek help. But the depression took that from him.
It had been said there are significant similarities between grief and depression, but it’s also incredibly important to know the difference between the two. I have felt depressed in my grief but I haven’t had depression, although I know many of my widowed friends have, which is very scary for them.
Every time the darkness of that deep grief descends upon me I’m reminded of some of the feelings my darling husband must have been battling with. It helps me understand how out of control he must have been feeling and again reaffirms that his suicide wasn’t a ‘choice’ made by a rational brain, it was a desperate act by someone who felt deprived of any other solution. While I can remind myself that the fog will lift and my deep pain isn’t permanent, he just wasn’t able to find that hope.