After He Was Gone: My new reality & my old demon – depression

I haven’t written a blog since May: After He Was Gone: Darkest Days. It was just under a year, the long weekend in May, when I had a breakdown, actually one of two, leading up to the one-year anniversary since Bob died, June 8, 2013.

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I found myself sitting with my doctor in her office, another blog in my hand: After he was gone – 11 months, I am. I’d been crying for two days. I felt like I was going through the first days of loss all over again. It was like being violently thrown back in time and crashing against the grief wall, living the first days of loss over and over and over again.

She read my blog, raised her eyebrows ever so slightly, then said “O.K….” We talked at length, actually, she talked. I cried, in between getting out a few straggling thoughts of depression and hopelessness. After what seemed like an hour, and having assessed my state of mind enough to feel she could trust me not to do anything rash, she asked me to increase my antidepressants and made a follow-up appointment.

It takes a while for the medication to kick in, but when it did I finally realized it wasn’t a place I wanted to be either. I was numb. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t care about anything. There was no sadness, but there was no joy either. I was existing in a fog of daily to-do chores. I could work because I could focus again, but my creativity was nil. I went back and told her I needed to decrease the medication. She agreed, but continues to monitor me. I am on the lower dose now and started to feel emotions again. It actually felt like relief when I cried again. But I wonder why I’m doing this balancing act with antidepressants.

*****

For me, there is a hairline difference between existing and living. It’s called antidepressants. Given the right dose I feel ‘normal.’ When I go off them I find myself in a deep, dark cavern. It’s been going on for years. I have not found the antidepressant antidote that works for me. I must stay on them, even just a low dose. I’m not crazy, but they make me feel, well, ‘normal.’

So what is normal, or abnormal? Our Western society, dictates that we must smile and be happy. No matter how far we fall, we need to get up, brush ourselves off and move ahead. We need to “get over” anything that happened in the past and focus on the future.

Things get more complicated when you set out on a grief journey. It changes life in a way you can’t imagine. I try to learn as much about it as I can, and about ways to get through this, because I know that I will never will get over it. One of my lessons has become a new buzz phrase in Western society: “being in the moment.” It’s done through conscious effort but has been used in meditation for decades. It’s a place where you don’t think about the past or future. If your mind wanders back or forward, you need to pull it into the present.

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s often a fight to get the busy (sometimes referred to as ‘monkey’) mind to settle down. Even those who have been meditating for years still find their minds wander. But the entire act of control over your mind and where you focus is achieved with repetition. The idea is to bring the practice into your present life. Don’t think too far ahead. Don’t focus on what happened before. Live each moment as it comes, every day.

In grief this is the biggest challenge. When we lose a loved one, we are thrown into a frenzy of making arrangements for their burial, or whatever our tradition requires. We are surrounded by family and friends who hold us up. We console others on their loss of our loved one. Then, suddenly, we are left on our own. Life goes on for everyone else. The grief-stricken don’t have a life as they knew it. Being in the moment means pain.

*****

As time moves on we move further away from the intense grief but there are times when the loneliness of our new reality makes us apprehensive, fearful and sometimes depressed. For me it’s long weekends. I am alone, not by choice. So I post on Social Media, hoping to connect with someone out there:

“I don’t like weekends. I especially dislike long weekends. Why? Because I feel like everyone is with family hanging out or getting away, especially in the nice summer weather. Not that my preconceived idealist notion is true, but it feels like it to me. I don’t have my guy, or cats…or anyone to be with, consistently, throughout the weekend. I used to, but not now. Yes, I do try to make plans but sometimes it seems like a lot of work. I never had to do this before. [This is] Another part of my new reality.”

I am greeted with support. Some say they feel this way too. Others say this is a revelation to them. Over a year ago it would have been a revelation to me. But not now. And so I continue on my journey, after a year has passed since he was gone. I will be on pills that make me try to feel normal. I will smile and some days I will feel happiness, but nothing is the same, or will ever be the same. There is a huge gaping hole in my heart, but I’m the only one who can feel it. I didn’t sign up for this, but this is my new reality.

*****

As I write this it’s the last day of a long weekend. I have seen some friends. I have spent time alone. It feels like it’s been a week, but I made it.

8 comments
  1. I feel for you, suzanne. But please know that there are variances of that ‘new reality.’ My husband is not gone, but in many ways, he has left the room. I think many of us have to face our own ‘new realities’ that may not be quite as obvious as the final and ultimate departure that your own dear Bob has met.

    • Thank you for sharing your story, Doreen. I know there are many people who live with a loved one who is slipping away from them. In your case it’s not dementia related but not any less painful. We can grieve for the living as well as those who have left us. And we also grieve for the life we knew but will no longer have. I am here for you.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this journey of yours with the rest of us. How often have I looked at my mother, widowed 10 years ago, and wondered (but not asked) how she’s feeling emotionally these days? Although (so far) I haven’t lost a spouse, I have lost my father, three good friends and, most recently, both my dog and horse within two weeks of each other. It seems like the loss of the animals concentrated all the grief I’ve accumulated during the past 15 years and, like you, I find myself sobbing and howling some times – attacked out of the blue by inconsolable grief. Last month, on my way to Nova Scotia to visit a friend, I had to pull over to the side of the highway and ‘let it out’. I sat in my car and literally howled – and hoped no one would see me or stop to see if my car was ok.

    Thank you for talking about this journey. It’s good to know we’re not crazy – just walking down a new road.

    • I want to say ‘thank you for sharing your story,’ but it doesn’t seem like enough, Ceci. You have really gone into the depth of grief. One death piled on another – and yes, pets are our people too, I grieve the loss of my two cats every day as well. As we get older we go from one journey of grief over a death headlong into another one. There is barely time to grieve and we are spinning again with the next loss. My heart goes out to you. Thank you for having the courage to share your journey here.

  3. Grief mood and sensation are a curious business. I make a conscious choice to quit using anti-depressants (fluoroxetine) between equinoxes, when there is sunshine and I’m outside. The difference between on and off is fascinating regardless of the reason. ONe thing you probably should be aware of is you should taper, not quit cold turkey. A few acquaintances had horrific rebounds down when they just stopped.

    I find so far I’m just a little numb. I noticed a couple of days ago, when I laughed out loud from pure pleasure (winning a game of tetris). I stopped mid laugh and thought “I haven’t done that in a very long time.” Long time in this case means probably 9 months. Maybe more.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always been more of a creature of the moment than most people. (in life this isn’t necessarily a good thing generally) Maybe I can glide from day to day more easily than others.

    Right now my “in the moment” task is to not say “I need to tell Dad about…[those flowers, that book etc.]” but “Dad would have appreciated those…” It’s easier some days than others.

    • Hi James. Thanks for your comment. I was looking to see if you had a blog but there’s no link on your comment. I’m assuming you’re grieving the loss of your father? If so, my deepest condolences.

      I know about tapering, but thanks for sharing that valuable information. I do it under my doctor’s direction. Perhaps others who read this weren’t aware and it’s extremely important for sure.

      I am glad that you are starting to ‘feel’ again. The numbness is really not the way to live life, but it is better than being downtrodden depressed. I am trying to find the happy medium here, if there is one. Everything becomes more complicated when you’re also dealing with grief.

  4. thanks for the comments. my blog is drbooze.com but it’s not really about grief or my father other than a couple of posts recently and in the fall so you can link or not as you see fit.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I posted a response on your blog where you mention your father’s passing.

      p.s. I’ve never seen an “Assemble Image” requirement to prove you’re not a bot. While it was fun the first time, I think it’s time consuming. You might want to consider just having people replicate letters and numbers.

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