Grief and Depression

The mind is like the rest of the body. When we’re healthy, we can handle far more physical illness or injury than we could if we were already sick or hurt. If I get a cold when I’ve been healthy, recovery shouldn’t be too hard. But if I’m already worn out from a flu the week before, that cold will hit a lot harder and probably last longer. Mental health is no different.

Responses to grief can become far worse when a loss occurs after mental health is already compromised. Each loss compounds on the last because the last wasn’t fully healed yet. In my case, major losses and stress have been compounding for years. At this point I can’t even tell which one I’m grieving a lot of the time. Did I really heal from the earlier ones? Are they all there in my head somewhere? Probably.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a depression disorder. However, grief often involves depression, at least temporarily. It can also be much harder to deal with if the grief is severe or compounded, sometimes becoming a temporary or long term disorder if it’s not dealt with properly and in a timely manner after the loss.

Lately I’ve been dealing with feelings of worthlessness and guilt, and I feel like I can’t do anything right. I obsess over things I say or do far more than usual, even little things, thinking I must have fucked it up somehow. Sadness is always right there under the surface waiting for a reason to surface and send me into another spiral of negative emotion. This morning I woke up and within half an hour I was crying. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense, nothing bad or triggering has even had a chance to happen yet today.

But grief is strange. It fluctuates. Some days I’m happy and feel carefree again, and it’s a beautiful ray of sunshine that I cling to with both hands because I know it may not be long before anxiety and depression symptoms come back and cruelly tear it away again. I’ve always been a pretty happy upbeat person; happiness is something I took for granted. But like health, we don’t always appreciate it until it’s under threat. Not that I’m sad all the time, but lately when I’m not sad I’m often just “neutral” with a side of melancholy.

Part of addressing my mental health involves trying to recognize what I feel and why. Understanding that these feelings of worthlessness and guilt and failure are largely stemming from normal grief symptoms, while it doesn’t make them go away, does help me deal with them a little better. I know that my emotional feelings of failure may not actually be grounded in reality. Just because I worry that I said or did the wrong thing doesn’t mean I did. And if I did, is it really the end of the world? Maybe, but probably not. Life goes on even when we mess up. Everything feels like a bigger deal in my head, especially since I have always hated the idea of hurting anyone. If I accidentally screw up and become aware of it, I’ll apologize and do whatever it takes to make it right. That and learning from my mistakes is all I can really do.

To those who deal with depression and other mental health disorders regularly: People don’t give you anywhere near enough credit for what you deal with everyday. You may not either, especially if your disorder causes you to feel like a failure. But every day that you pick up the pieces and keep going as best you can anyways is a battle you’ve won, even if it doesn’t feel like it. You’re a warrior fighting a battle that few really understand or appreciate.

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Dealing with failure.

This is a blog I wrote about a week ago when I was dealing with some really hard stuff. I’m feeling much better now, and I’m ready to share it here in hope that it’ll help someone else. For those who aren’t used to my occasional expressive language, I tend to be blunt when I’m expressing my deeper feelings, so if you want to know what goes on in my head you’ll just have to take me as I am. 🙂

 

Failure. Sometimes we’re just not able to complete a task that we started due to circumstances that are unfortunately out of our control, and that’s ok. Failure means we tried, and we can always try again until we get it right. Most people who accomplish great things have far more failures under their belts than successes. If we reach for the stars and fall short, we’ve still reached higher than those who never try at all. I understand the wisdom in all of this, and I know that I’ll always continue trying. However…

Fuck all that.

Failing at something I worked so hard on feels shitty as hell. Even if I know I did my best and can try again, the fact still remains that I wasn’t able to complete a goal that I set for myself. And it hurts.

I’ve never been a quitter. I usually latch on and keep going until there’s no possible way I can move forward any further. But given the insanity of this past year, I’m being forced to acknowledge that my current mental and emotional state means that I can’t have my usual high expectations of myself.

What I’m failing at is school. I already failed Spanish class this week, and sitting in Music Theory today I realized there’s no way I’m going to pass that class either. I may be able to salvage my Critical Thinking class because it’s very easy and my teacher is so chill, but that’s about it.

Normally being in school wouldn’t be a huge deal. It would be stressful at times, but I’m well versed in pushing through stress. This year, though, my goals were way too lofty. I started out the semester trying to manage a full time course load on top of working part time, dealing with untreated ADD (and who knows what else), enduring massive amounts of situational stress, and so on. I was attempting to learn two complicated languages at the same time (Spanish and Music Theory). I also wasn’t taking the time I needed to recharge and care for my mental health.

Because of this, I was unable to absorb a lot of the material in my classes early in the semester, and I’m still having trouble with it. I feel like I’ve been absent for most of my classes even though my attendance has been excellent. I should have mastered basic Music Theory by now, but I feel like I’ve barely learned anything.

My goal in taking classes isn’t to get marks on a paper, although I do value getting good grades. It was to learn new skills and improve on old ones. If I didn’t learn what I needed to this semester, then even if I somehow passed the class I should really retake it so I build the skills I need. What good is a grade if I still can’t read music afterwards?

And yet, the thought of failing not only one class but most of a semester rips my heart out. I value intelligence and knowledge, and feeling like I’m unable to pursue that side of myself the way I want to right now makes me very upset. I know in my head that focusing on building myself back up will result in a far better school year next year, and that I started the semester with very unrealistic goals, but at the moment it’s hard to see anything but failure.

It frustrates me because nothing I’m learning is beyond my comprehension normally- but this year hasn’t exactly been normal.

I hate the thought of giving up on something that I’ve put so much effort into. I feel like I ought to be able to just push a little harder, just focus a bit more, set aside a little more energy. But apparently I’ve already been giving everything I have, and it’s not enough.

But this isn’t the end. One way or another, I’m not giving up. This semester is a setback and it’s going to take a while for me to work through these emotions, but I won’t let it stop me from reaching my goal of getting into the advanced music program next fall. There’s a slower paced music theory class next semester that my teacher recommended. I think it would be a great option, as long as I only take that and violin lessons so I’m not overloaded. I’ll retake Music Theory as many times as I need to, and I’ll set more realistic goals of what I can handle. I’ll be fairer to myself in setting aside time and resources for things that recharge me.

My mental picture of the life I want to create for myself keeps me going. I’m a damn good musician and vocalist, and I know I’m cut out to make music my career. I’ll make it happen… even if it requires taking every fucking class twice to get there.

Quotes: Mental Health and Overcoming Sh*t

I kinda want to frame some of these. I was compiling this list for myself this week while processing stuff related to my ADD and mental health, and thought I’d share them since I know many of you are dealing with similar things or know people who are. What quotes encourage you?

Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine.
Jack Ma

Survival can be summed up in three words – never give up. That’s the heart of it really. Just keep trying.
Bear Grylls

There isn’t anybody out there who doesn’t have a mental health issue, whether it’s depression, anxiety, or how to cope with relationships. Having OCD is not an embarrassment anymore – for me. Just know that there is help and your life could be better if you go out and seek the help.
Howie Mandel

The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.
Matthew Quick

We take our kids for physical vaccinations, dental exams, eye checkups. When do we think to take our – our son or daughter for a mental health checkup?
Gordon Smith

If mental illness could be seen on a sufferer maybe society wouldn’t say “just get over it.”
Lonely Lotus

When we deny the story, it define us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.
Brene Brown

Never underestimate the pain of a person, because in all honesty, everyone is struggling. Just some people are better at hiding it than others.

Masquerading as a normal person, day after day, is just exhausting.

The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: ‘me too’.
(YES!! This has been so huge for me, knowing that I’m not the only person who deals with this stuff.)

When someone is going through a storm, your silent presence is more powerful than a million empty words.
Thelma Davis

I am the same person I was before you found out I have a mental disorder.

Your illness does not define you. Your strength and courage does.

From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. from the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.

Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.
Elizabeth Gilbert

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. -Albert Camus

Don’t be ashamed of your story, it will inspire others.

No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness.
Elyn Saks

I think the stigma attached to mental illness will disappear just like it did for cancer years ago.
Sally Graham

I fight for my health every day in ways most people don’t understand. I’m not lazy. I’m a warrior.

I am not a victim. No matter what I have been through, I’m still here. I have a history of victory.
Steve Maraboli

The mentally ill frighten and embarrass us. And so we marginalize the people who most need our acceptance. What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, more unashamed conversation.
Glenn Close

“Your perspective on life comes from the cage you were held captive in.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“i think the idea of a ‘mental health day’ is something completely invented by people who have no clue what it’s like to have bad mental health. the idea that your mind can be aired out in twenty-four hours is kind of like saying heart disease can be cured if you eat the right breakfast cereal. mental health days only exist for people who have the luxury of saying ‘i don’t want to deal with things today’ and then can take the whole day off, while the rest of us are stuck fighting the fights we always fight, with no one really caring one way or another, unless we choose to bring a gun to school or ruin the morning announcements with a suicide.”
― David Levithan, Will Grayson, Will Grayson

I really liked this one in particular.

“Mental illness

People assume you aren’t sick
unless they see the sickness on your skin
like scars forming a map of all the ways you’re hurting.

My heart is a prison of Have you tried?s
Have you tried exercising? Have you tried eating better?
Have you tried not being sad, not being sick?
Have you tried being more like me?
Have you tried shutting up?

Yes, I have tried. Yes, I am still trying,
and yes, I am still sick.

Sometimes monsters are invisible, and
sometimes demons attack you from the inside.
Just because you cannot see the claws and the teeth
does not mean they aren’t ripping through me.
Pain does not need to be seen to be felt.

Telling me there is no problem
won’t solve the problem.

This is not how miracles are born.
This is not how sickness works.”
― Emm Roy, The First Step