~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

When Grief is Not Enough

In the years since my loss and in the grief that came after it, I have heard many a message about seizing the day, about living fully—because life is short, and we don’t know when our own will end. And, hello—a loved one's death drives that home. Except…when it’s not enough to fully drive that message home.

Wait,…what?!? You mean the love of your life died and your most-cherished dreams shattered, and that's not enough for you?!?

How could it possibly not be enough to do that?

When depression is your other constant companion, that’s how.

If I’ve learned one thing about depression from my own experience, it’s that, contrary to popular belief, depression is not just about being sad. It’s about being so sad that you are de-motivated. For anything and everything. Even things you supposedly want. (Well, that’s my layperson’s definition, anyway. I’ve just…lived it is all.)

And having survived the death of the person I loved (and love) the most has not, in itself, flipped that on its head. In fact, it was the cause of a lot of it.

See, grief and depression are not the same thing. They can often feel the same, but they have (at least) one giant difference: Grief can ultimately motivate a person to live fully, to embrace the now…since you now realize, like you never did before, that you don’t know when there won't be any “now” left. Depression…has the opposite effect. And when you have both (oh, along with a history of a host of other traumas)...well, they can "play off" each other, make each other worse, and just pull you even further into the fucking pit.

I'm not as far down in the pit as I once was. The early years of grief were a hell on earth of wanting to die but not wanting to kill myself. It's not that bad anymore, but there is still a giant element of "just going through the motions." A giant element of only "motivated" sometimes to go to work because I want to avoid having to rely on others for financial support. And I do go out socially, and I can and do have a good time.

But the undercurrent of depression is always there.

Sure, hope matters. ...Not that I have any.
(OK, I'm exaggerating. But not by much.)
So—you can tell me that Hope Matters. You can tell me about kicking the shit out of option B. Or you can exhort me to, instead of thinking of life post-loss as plan B (and therefore inferior) at all, think of it as creating a new plan A. You can encourage me to put it all in a virtual cement mixer, to become fodder for a new foundation. You can even remind me—with good reason—to wear the damn watch!

And you'd be right. It's just that I'll be over here, going...Look, I get it. Life is short. So. fucking. short. But for all of my "getting it" mentally, I'm still without sufficient motivation or energy (physical, too) to do much of anything about it. I mean, living out my life as it is now tends to take all of my energy out of me. And I've tried so. many. things. to improve my physical energy. And I guess some of it has helped. But it's still not...well, enough.

One thing I am doing is learning about shame and its antidote, empathy; wholehearted living; vulnerability and courage; and the process of rising after falling—by reading the books of BrenĂ© Brown and by taking her online courses, the Living Brave Semester (which covers the content from her books Daring Greatly and Rising Strong; FYI, this course is offered every January) and The Anatomy of Trust (FYI, this course is offered all the time and is free).

One of the biggest realizations that the Living Brave Semester course has led to or reinforced is that I need to learn how to love myself. It's not like this is a brand-new thought, but only recently has it truly become a priority. Because it has finally sunk in: You cannot pour anything out of an empty pitcher. In other words: you can't give any more love to others than you have for yourself.

In fact, we recently finished the Daring Greatly content, and one of the exercises for the last lesson was to write a manifesto. ("Manifesto" probably gets a bad rap. I mean, it can bring to mind extremist individuals or groups. But it simply means, "a written statement that describes the policies, goals, and opinions of a person or group.") Anyway, since I'd already realized the importance of self-love, what my manifesto needed to be pretty-easily occurred to me.



So...will learning to love myself "work"? Will it give me enough "juice" to finally  Live Large?

I certainly hope so. ...See what I did there?
© A Road Less Traveled

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