It has been one year now since we lost my mom, four months since we lost my dad. For awhile. It has felt like I was drowning, buried under the waves of grief and sadness, unable to pull myself out. Trying to keep my ahead above water, going about my daily life and trying to accomplish anything more than the bare minimum that was necessary, felt impossible. My grief swallowed me whole. I realized that I felt capable of doing anything beyond caring for my kids, there was nothing bringing me joy, and I felt like I wasn’t really living.
Since that realization, I have been trying to pull myself out. The first step for me was accepting that I had reached the point of clinical depression. Between my training and experience in the mental health field and my personal experiences with depression 14 years ago, I feel pretty finely attuned to the differences between sadness and depression. After my mom passed, I was so sad. The grief was overwhelming, but I wasn’t depressed. Being pregnant and then postpartum, I was aware of the additional role those hormones can play and I watched carefully for any signs of depression. Despite being so deeply sad, I wasn’t depressed. Then, my dad died when Cara was two months old. That was what did me in. My parents were both gone and I couldn’t keep my head above water anymore. I started to drown and depression took over me.
I was acutely aware that I was depressed, but it still felt so hard to do anything about it. Everything felt hard – even just stepping outside or sending a text to a friend, or trying to drink more water- anything more than the bare minimum that I had to do felt like such a Herculean task. I put off seeking out antidepressants for a while, but ultimately I needed that extra bit of help to stabilize my brain chemistry and help me make the next steps that I needed to pull myself out of my depression.
Taking sertraline helped tremendously. Once I took that step, I found it easier to find counseling and talking to a grief counselor has been my next important step. Now, I have slowly come back to feeling like myself. I am still sad all the time. Grief washes over me in waves, and sometimes it is all I see. Now though, it feels a little easier to get through those times. I can feel happy and enjoy the moment with my kids. I can drink more water and make a to-do list that I actually follow through on. I don’t think my grief will ever go away, and I’m not sure that I want it to – but I am getting better at learning how to live with it.