Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Grief versus depression

I have struggled with depression off and on my whole life. I know the signs pretty well. But sometimes it slips up on me and takes over before I realize it. Its only when I am deep in the pit and become aware of how well I am not doing that I stop and figure out that "OH, its back and its bad"
Grief is different. It comes suddenly and in waves that knock me over and tumble me. Waves that bash me against sharp rocks of pain, battering my soul, bringing fresh tears and gut wrenching sobs.
When depression hits, I stop, I become numb, I cease to feel much of anything. Grief is one huge ache, I am a living, breathing wound.

There have been times of real grief in my life, all connected to losses of loved ones. Some were human, some were pets. When my father died, I remember the unrealness of it. He had been sick for awhile, but even knowing that did not prepare me for the reality of his death. I recall going outside the night he died and standing in the backyard staring at the night sky, wondering where in the vastness had he gone? Where was Heaven and would I ever see my father again? I was 15 and my life changed that night...
I was 29 when my mother died, a new wife, trying to start a marriage, and again, her death left me pondering the huge hole ripped into the fabric of my life. It seemed as if my identity was altered in an instant, I went from daughter to orphan, from me to wife and I lost myself somewhere on the way...
Then of course came the deaths of pets. For people who have never lived closely with an animal this may seem crazy. It is the pathology of the childless, the hubster says that we make the pets our children, our substitute family. Only unlike children, we can choose when to end their suffering. We can choose to take on the emotional pain to end their physical pain. Euthanasia is a hard decision. It costs a certain amount of one's soul.

Unfortunately this last time, depression and grief have overlapped. It is not a pretty place to be. Its rather dark and scary. I have cried more lately than I have cried in years. Losing 3 pets in rapid succession has triggered all the grief of losing everyone and everything I have ever lost. And there doesn't seem to be enough love or joy to fill that void. In spite of my family, friends and amazing husband, I still ache. I am counting my blessings, I am doing my job, I am looking for the silver lining. I am celebrating the lives of all my dearly departed loved ones. But damn it, I still miss them. I still long for one more day, one more hour, one more hug or touch. I am grieving and all I can do, I suppose, is just work my way through this until I come out on the other side.

6 comments:

Alykat said...

I know that you need to ache and feel sad to grieve, but I hope that it eases soon and that the joy of your memories replace the sorrow soon. And that I am here if you need anything! (Though I know you already knew that!)
Lots of love and hugs!

Katie! said...

You WILL come out the other side, just like you always do. You have many friends who love you and are here for you when you need us!

Thinking of you lots and hoping your ache lightens soon.

xo.

oaklandcoaster said...

I am similar to you in some of these ways, Martha. I have had bouts with depression for years, and my pets have been my only "family" with me where I live. I am, by nature, a loner (like you say that you can be, comfortably for days). I enjoy being with people, but am shy to seek out ways to meet them.

I really believe that life does not end with the "death" of the physical body- for humans or for animals. I am trying to prepare myself for what is bound to happen to Elmo sooner or later. I know that he will be in a good place after that time comes, and I think that animals are different than humans in that they do not spend so much energy in dreading death, and seem to be more accepting of it. In some ways, I think they are wiser than us...

I miss my cat, Chelsea, to this day- but I know she's in a good place. I don't know how I will cope with missing Elmo- when the time comes, but I'm trying to bolster myself to be prepared for that.

Those of use who know the love a critter can bring into our lives, and especially you, with your extraordinary love and care, must realize that we do the best we can and know to for our companion critters, and that is all they ask- no more. Your pets were sincerely very lucky to have had you as a friend and caregiver. You did far more than most people are willing or able to, and when the time was right, you gave up your comfort and selfishness to set them free from their suffering.

You are a wonderful person, a wonderful friend, and I have missed you so much since we knew each other years ago. I love you, Martha, and I wish you healing, and relief from all the bad feelings. I know it can be hard to push through, but you are loved and cared for, and relief will come. I hope we can be friends someday if/when I move back to KY.

Take care my sweet friend. Your heart is tender, but your spirit is strong.

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