“I am so cold” I remember saying, as I followed my Mom into her bedroom….. My teeth were chattering in the middle of July. I was chilled to the bone and uncomfortably so, yet I needed to strip the navy blue suit off me. The gold piping along my pockets seemed too garish for such an occasion. “Take it off” my Mom said “I will give you something to put on”. She handed me an old sweatshirt and sweatpants and I put them on and climbed onto my parent’s bed, covering up with a blanket… I didn’t think that icy feeling would ever go away…..
We had just come from my Brother’s funeral.
And I was empty.
My brother was gone.
And so was I, or at least it felt that way.
Dave passed away two weeks after my 25th birthday, and I was ill-prepared for such an all-encompassing sadness. I remember running on auto-pilot the first few days after his death, but as the funeral came to an end, and life around me just went on… I lost my place in this world. Life indeed went on without me. My friends still went to work, and still went for drinks on a Friday night…. My Boss still expected that I come into work each day…. There were still bills to pay, food to cook, toilets to clean…. and I still had a wedding to attend… MY WEDDING… but I couldn’t do any of it. I couldn’t even form a solid thought in my head… all I felt was EMPTY.
That day turned into 3, and I hadn’t yet taken off those sweatpants…. I cried all night long, and my days were filled with anything that would numb me out – I started watching soap operas… LOTS of soap operas…. and I began to knit LONG swatches of fabric, only to rip them out violently and start all over again. Food meant nothing to me, having my hair done meant nothing to me…. time meant nothing to me…. I initially crawled into the rabbit’s hole to protect myself, but I kept creeping further into darkness until I couldn’t find my way out.
I pulled myself together long enough to walk down the aisle… I looked very put together that day – smiling, hugging, playing the quintessential hostess, but inside was a different matter entirely.
I pulled myself together long enough to go on my honeymoon, and come home with stories to tell…. and then I promptly fell apart.
I never went back to work.
My thoughts were no longer my own.
The darkness went from old friend to evil foe….
I admitted that I was on a runaway train headed for nowhere…
I admitted that I was powerless to my depression…
I spent the next 8 months getting help.
I always looked back on that time as the most life-changing period of my life. As time went on, and both medication and therapy helped me grieve over the loss of my brother, I began to find myself again. It was hard for me to accept that the ME I was had been forever changed, but I learned to like the new ‘me’. I eventually climbed out of that hole, and into the land of the living again… but part of me lived in fear that the darkness would eventually come back…
and it did…. 6 years later,
When I became ill.
Once you have been depressed, you never forget the feeling. But it has a way of slowly sneaking up on you and ever so lightly putting its arm around you like a long-lost friend. The isolation can be inviting when you are overwhelmed with life – the empty room lures you in, and then LOCKS you in…. It makes you thinks that the choice is yours, that you can come and go as you please…. and then it binds and gags you and renders you helpless. IT decides how long it will stay…
When depression first hit, I let it control my every breath… when it hit the second time I wasn’t that willing to hand over my life… I fought hard….
and it was ugly,
and it was vicious,
and it was all I could do to keep waking up each morning and fighting all over again…. but I did it.
And I keep doing it…just because chronic pain and depression are friends with one another doesn’t mean they are friends of mine.
My pain would like me to end the fight. My pain would like me to surrender. My pain would like me to jump back into the rabbit’s hole…. but I won’t give it that kind of satisfaction.
Although I cannot control those feelings from entering my life, I DO have a say in how long they stay.
Pain has taken away a lot…. but I won’t let it take away my happiness.
You know what they say….
Living well is the best revenge…
and it is the way I choose to attack the darkness.
I am human, and still get depressed from time to time, but I know now that I don’t have to let it control my life.
Depression is a chronic illness, but it doesn’t have to be a terminal illness.
There will always be darkness, but it is up to me to let in the light.
I have been house-bound for the last 10 years, but I no longer watch soap operas… I have more useful things to do with my life…
And just so you know, I have thrown away those sweatpants my Mom gave me years ago…
I don’t need them anymore.
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