My journey with depression started around a year after my Mum passed away. It was very sudden and although not unexpected, it was certainly sooner than expected. Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. A year or so later, having pushed through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and a lot of drugs that made her very sick, she won. She had fought with all her might and won. However at a follow up appointment, our whole world crashed down around us. They had not eliminated all of the cancer and it had spread – to her bones, brain, bloodstream, organs, everything. They gave her two years to live but twenty days later she was admitted to hospital and died. She had gone peacefully with Dad by her side and I imagine that drive home was the hardest drive of his life.
The next year went by in a blur. We all cried a lot but I quickly went back to school and got on with my friendships and education. It plagued me that I wasn’t too distraught – of course I missed her and I cried a lot – but somehow I felt, ‘okay’. Oh how wrong I was. Things just hadn’t ‘changed’ much yet. I guess you could say it felt like any other day. I’d get by from thinking ‘she’ll come round that corner any minute’. What I didn’t know was that those very thoughts were the first steps to dealing with grief. It was after experiencing these that depression really started to set in. To understand this, with the help of a friendly librarian, I found some books to help me. I learned that the seven stages of grief/bereavement are:
- Shock – An immediate response to the news.
Everyone will react differently while in shock. You may freeze, cry, scream or collapse. Being in a big family, I saw all of these reactions when Dad told us the news.
- Denial – Busying yourself with other things, telling yourself ‘they’ll be back soon’ or ‘this is a horrid prank and ignoring your feelings.
I guess this is what stage I was stuck in for that whole year. I attended the funeral, sobbed every night for weeks, yet I still told myself those things.
- Anger – An emotion of frustration, regret, ill feelings, blaming others and feeling betrayed by the person who died for leaving you.
Personally, I skipped this part unconsciously. I didn’t experience it as a ‘step’ in my grief however it did crop up a few times in between each process. I occasionally felt angry at Mum for not explaining things properly but I soon accepted that she didn’t know what was to come either. I was also angry at myself for not being kinder, or having taken enough photos. I didn’t properly start this process until in the midst of my depression. However some people will beg God to take them and return their loved one, or to let them have one more day with them. They may turn to religion, drugs and alcohol to forget the pain.
Depression – Accepting the truth and reflecting on the loss, pain and loneliness you feel.
This is the hardest part of grief and the most unfortunate of all – once you are consumed by depression, you are more at risk of developing it later on in life. When I suffered first time, I separated myself from social events, cried so much it physically hurt, pushed close ones away, and just felt empty. I felt like I had nowhere to turn and I experienced this for just less than two years. It was once I left school and started my first job that I started to turn myself around.
Looking forward – Finding something to work towards and help you on the road to happiness.
Once you find that ‘turn around’ solution, you will be on your way to coping with your grief. You’ll wave goodbye to depression and start building your life back up. You won’t forget that special person you lost, but you will learn how to cope and even feel happiness again. This may not be a new job like me– It may be that you find a partner and they help you feel those long-lost feelings of happiness and self-worth, you might have a birth in the family or connect with old friends.
It has been five years since I moved past my grief-related depression and I’ve had ups and downs. Unfortunately I’ve found myself in a fiercer depression induced by a range of things: stress, unhappiness with my ‘goals and achievements’ not panning out, having to leave my job due to said stress and a range of relationship difficulties. The problem is, if you suffer depression at any point in your life, it makes you more susceptible to it in the future. As with before, I have distanced myself from friends, social occasions, family gathering and anything remotely enjoyable. This time I have had suicidal feelings and been very close to acting upon them at times. However, I used my past as a learning curve and this time sought professional help. I am currently on medication and counselling to get back to health as soon as possible. Even with both of these, I have my awful moments. Having left my job I have a lot of time to dwell on things but I’m busying myself with things that I enjoy such as reading, writing and playing with my pet rabbit. (He is a mini lop named Moo if you’re wondering). In those down moments I really do struggle to do anything but somehow, usually hours after staring at blankness, I find the strength from somewhere. I talk myself into doing a small task such as washing up which inevitably leads me to putting a wash load in, vacuuming and putting clean clothes on. It also means I open the curtains and let some of the world in. I am determined to feel better faster this time.