I hate talking about my mother’s death. Mostly because I don’t think many people my age could understand my experience. My group of friends has lost grandparents, pets, co-workers and distant relatives. They’ve all experienced a profound amount of loss and death in their young years. But, when it comes to dealing with the loss of a parent, I find myself swimming in a sea of loneliness. This experience created a new shadow that always follows me: depression.
Growing up, I thought I had bouts of depression but I was wrong. “Feeling depressed” in the afternoon is not the same as experiencing true, clinical depression. It wasn’t until mid-August of 2018 (approximately 17 months after my mom died) when that shadow began to reveal itself. I remember sitting on the kitchen floor with my back arched against my plywood cabinets, my best friend on speakerphone and me screaming at the top of my lungs like I was Meryl Streep in Big Little Lies.
At that moment, I contemplated death for the first time.
I could make it quick. If I was dead, I wouldn’t have to feel the writhing sting of grief twisting inside my chest like a rattlesnake. Dead, I wouldn’t have to get married without my mom. Dead, I could be with her. And dead, the pain would finally end.
I didn’t do it and I’m glad I didn’t.
I had no stock in those thoughts, but nonetheless, they were there – always in the back of my mind because my depression was bigger than me. My depression was bigger than anything.
Months went by and I got through my wedding like a corpse, watching the blood drain from my face anytime someone asked me if I was happy. I went on vacations. I got a promotion at work. From an outsider looking in, I had everything that should signal a happy life. But, on the inside, I was still broken. That’s why on one early morning I asked my husband if it was okay if I just flung myself into oncoming traffic.
I’ve been to grief counseling and regular therapy. Also, I’ve written countless articles, regardless of whether they ever see the light of day. I’ve confided in friends. Then, I’ve prayed to God. I’ve prayed to my mother.
The one thing I found to be true, though, when it comes to understanding my grief and my depression, is that a lot of it could be cured by listening to myself.
When I wake up on a weekend morning, I imagine sitting outside, gripping my coffee mug, and inhaling the sunshine. I imagine potential new projects for my house or consider driving down to Starbucks with my laptop to write. I should listen to myself in these moments.
Instead, I make a checklist of everything I have to do: clean the kitchen, scrub the toilet, wash the bed, vacuum, help my dad as he goes through radiation treatment… the list goes on. The weekend comes and goes and I make a pact with myself that the next day will be different. Tomorrow is when I’ll be happy. Tomorrow is when I’ll listen to that voice in my head telling me to just relax and be honest with myself about how I want to spend my time.
My depression makes me feel like a stranger to my own needs. If I listened more then I could recharge my depleted battery. I could instill happiness back into my life.
The hustle and bustle of life provide us with a convenient distraction from fixing the issues in our lives. By staying busy, we “don’t have time” to give ourselves what we deserve. It’s what depression wants from me, but that’s what I want to fight against. You shouldn’t give up either.