Drawing of an eye

Rediscovering Who You Are After a Severe Depressive Episode

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There are some things in life that can leave a person imprisoned in their own mind — depression is one of them.

Since the beginning of this year, depression has had its gnarly grip on me and refused to let go. It got so bad I made a serious attempt on my life and soon after was sectioned and admitted to a psychiatric ward. I was a patient there for around 12 to 14 weeks including a couple of weeks preparing for discharge leave. Although one day I will write about my admission, I want to focus now on what it’s like to completely lose yourself to depression — and how it feels trying to put everything back together again.

I think the hardest part of this depressive episode has been when I’ve slightly come out of it and realized where I’ve been and what I’ve lost. Don’t get me wrong, being at the bottom of the deepest darkest pit wasn’t a joyful walk in the park, but to me, giving up felt so much easier than fighting. Giving up wasn’t an option though. While I had given up on myself, others hadn’t and were fighting to keep me alive until I could fight for myself. And that’s the point I’m at now, back in the community and taking control of my life again — at least trying to anyway.

Unfortunately being well enough to return home doesn’t automatically mean everything is back to normal and I’m cured. In fact I’m still very low and struggling with many aspects of daily living. Who knew emptying the dishwasher could be so overwhelming? Don’t even get me started on cooking or showering…

But what I’m finding even harder than mundane tasks is rediscovering who I am. Depression stole my identity and my joy. Trying to find myself again while still feeling exhausted, low and riddled with anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everything I knew and enjoyed feels like a distant memory and building myself back up feels like an impossible task. I can’t remember what genuine happiness feels like. I’ve had glimpses of it, but the feeling doesn’t stick around. I can’t remember how to socialize, even texting friends is difficult. I used to enjoy coloring, church, volunteering, reading, driving with tunes blasting and singing at the top of my voice (even in traffic), going out with friends, going for meals out, long walks with the dogs, my partner and seeing family. All these things are incredibly hard to do now. I either can’t remember how to do them, get too anxious and overwhelmed to do them or physically can’t do them.

But I am trying. Each day I get up, even when everything within me wants to stay under my duvet. I take my medication, engage with mental health professionals and I make sure I eat three meals a day. I set myself one to three daily tasks such as emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, posting to my mental health mission Facebook page, reading my emails, sorting appointments, showering, sitting outside for five minutes, watching some TV, etc. I don’t always manage them, but I’m trying to be compassionate with myself and listen to loved ones when they say these things will take time and the only person who is pressuring me — is me.

Each day I’m trying to do little things I used to do with the hope that one day, I’ll rediscover Joy.

So to those who have been through this and have come out the other side — I admire you because it isn’t easy, but you’ve shown me it’s worth it.

For those who are at the bottom of the pit with no hope — please hold on and reach out for help.

And for those of you who are trying to fight your way out of depression, like me, be kind to yourself, take things a day at a time and remember — it isn’t a race, it’s a journey.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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The Stories My 2,915 Facebook Photos Don’t Tell

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There are approximately 2,915 photos of me on my Facebook profile. About 2,200 of them feature the many stages of my smile: there is the devious 10-year-old holding a book during an awkward photo-op; the demure lip perch, trying to hide my braces, I had on prom night shortly after being anointed prom king; the candid shot of my smile graduating from UCLA; the exhausted, relieved smile after completing the LA Marathon; and my big goofy smile that overtakes me when I’m with those I love or at a Beyonce concert.

There’s about 90 photos of me with The People’s Eyebrow™, 120 photos of me doing Blue Steel™ and the remaining photos of me serving resting bitch face (thanks mom!) or incriminating photos I forgot to untag prior to graduating college and before becoming a grownup.

None of the 2,915 photos tell the story of a boy who has depression, plagued with thoughts of suicide and crippling anxiety. And yet all of them do.

It’s the night before my birthday, and I’m lying in bed paralyzed. Last night my mind began to spiral, and I’ve yet to figure out the cause, let alone know what the remedy might be to get me up. The more time passes, the more useless I feel. I keep replaying the surveillance videos in my brain from the past 48 hours to understand when the robbery of the present moment occurred. It’s silly to try and pinpoint what inane pebble led to this boulder I’m trying to outrun. It just takes the slight pivot of an expectation or the impossibility of trying to figure out where to eat for dinner. The pebble is rarely based on logic. It’s the gas leak no one smells waiting for the flick of a match.

My family threw me a birthday dinner the night before. It was my favorite meal, “breakfast for dinner,” complete with eggs, bacon, iced coffee and mimosas. As I sat at the table beside my brother, mom and dad, I felt like an uninvited stranger crashing this celebration. Everything inside me was screaming to smile, to be grateful, to be happy, but I wasn’t, I couldn’t, my mind and my body refused to. My mom picked up her mimosa and turned it to the zombie at the table. “To my special birthday boy…” she said as she angled her glass towards me. “I just want you to know how much we love you, today’s a day…”

My mind began to wonder and her words became washed out by the white noise in my head. There’s a thousand things I wish I would have said in that moment, but the only thing that escaped my mind was “this is a nightmare! this is a nightmare!” My head grew heavy, and my vision began to blur. I left the table with no explanation and retreated to my room and collapsed on to my bed. The next few hours were blurry as my bed began to float off into the sea of despair. My family each visited me one by one. My mom cried, my dad pleaded for me to be happy and my brother sat bedside for hours hoping I’d awaken from this mental coma. As I was lying in bed, my phone would ding with Facebook notifications, texts and calls from friends sending their birthday wishes. They went ignored. I had lost the ability to speak, to think and to reason. I was drowning.

As a kid, I always knew I was different, and that scared the hell out of me because I wanted to be like everyone else and I wanted everyone else to like me. In the fifth grade I was called a “faggot” for the first time. At that age, I wasn’t really sure what that word meant and the hate it carried. I went online to AskJeeves.com and asked “how do you know you’re gay?” (Note: I would have Googled this question, but I never knew how many O’s were in “Google”). When I read the results, I realized instantly I was gay. It was the year after Matthew Shepard was killed for being gay, and upon realizing I myself was also gay, it scared me. I was 10 years old and pictured the road in front of me. I thought of what a disappointment I would be to my mom, dad and family. I imagined how humiliating it would be for any of them to have to reveal the truth about my identity. I was afraid of my gayness, and I believed it was an inevitable death sentence. I already knew what the ending of my story would be, and so I thought I’d cut to the chase. I took a handful of Tylenol one night and went to bed relieved I wouldn’t have to wake up to the next day.

I woke up.

As a teenager, I did the best I could to suppress who I was and what that represented. I was insecure and thought I could create a facade of what a happy life was supposed to look like. If anyone questioned or inquired whether I was gay, I would instantly view them as a threat ready to expose my deeply buried secret. Holding in that secret became toxic as I began distancing anyone who could possibly expose me. I thought I had to do whatever I could to protect myself from the truth of who I was. I needed the story to be true.

In college, I added a guy name Dave on MySpace who I would later find out was the love of my life. At the age of 20, I came out to my mom. Actually… she came out to me for me.

I had taken my mom out to breakfast. We ordered at the counter, sat down at a table and without a moment to spare, she blurted out “I know you’re gay, and I know Dave is your boyfriend. Don’t you feel better now?” I don’t even think she took a breath. My mom had ripped the Band-Aid off and freed me of my mind’s emotional prison. Yet I couldn’t fully comprehend what had just taken place. I looked down at my parfait in horror. After all of the torture I had subjected myself to, after all the expectations I set forth as a 10-year-old, I was finally free.

It’s the morning of my birthday, and I feel trapped. I should be happy and have so much to celebrate and so many things to be thankful for. But in this moment, I am anything but grateful for being here. I want to disappear, and I want the suffering to end.

A sadness had always been a part of me, but I never knew what the source was. Was it because I was gay? Was it something even deeper? All of my life, my sadness followed me around. I carried it with me in my backpack through school; I brought it with my luggage on vacations, and it arrived just in time to help me celebrate my birthday. It is more real than anything in my life, yet I don’t want to acknowledge it’s a part of me. Doing so felt like admitting I am weak. I was scared of the reality of knowing I have depression. I overcompensated. I overpacked. I said “yes” when everything inside me was screaming “no.” I was turning myself into the person I thought everyone wanted me to be — the strong one, or the guy that’s always happy. I wanted to be the guy who had his shit together. Yet here I was motionless in bed.

I’m surrounded by fighters. I’m surrounded by people who have risked everything to help others obtain a better life. My grandparents were both holocaust survivors who fought for their lives to create a life that had the possibility of creating a family. I held my mom’s hand through her darkest days of chemo. My brother fought to get back on his feet after getting hit by a car on my 8th birthday, I’ve weathered the storm of two cancer fights that struck my partner Dave. Hell, even my adopted son/dog Rocco has fought for his life time and time again after multiple cancer diagnoses. In this moment, I’m not a fighter. I feel like a deserter. I am ready to give in.

My phone dings.

“Can you come to the window?” a text from Dave reads. I wrap my blanket around me and slowly get out of bed for the first time in 26 hours. The sun burns my eyes as I open the shade (much like you’d expect for someone whose father was born in Transylvania, like mine was). As my eyes begin to refocus, I see a sight that completely changes my life. Dave is standing on the sidewalk with our dog Rocco, who has several balloons tied to him. I break down. As we walk around the block that afternoon, I confess to Dave, “I think I need help.”

I came out for the second time in my life. When I’m at my lowest, I never know which wave will take me back to shore and which wave will pull me under. Quite honestly the idea of ever getting back to shore never really feels like a possibility in the moment. On this day, that ride back to shore came thanks to Dave, Rocco and five latex balloons.

The road to recovery these past few years has been paved with books, hikes, self-care and good ol’ fashion therapy. I am constantly learning how to build boundaries to protect myself, say no (which is impossible for someone who loves to please others and suffers from FOMO) and ask for help when it’s needed. At my lowest I found myself thinking of my depression as something that I could never talk openly about. I found myself partaking in the same shame cycle I found myself in when I came out as gay. To begin treating my depression, I first had to come out and accept that my depression was a part of me and a part of my story.

A few years ago, I ran the LA Marathon with Dave and I came up with the idea of filming the entire experience on a GoPro that would tell the story of a day in my life. Many runners had captured their experience by putting the GoPro on a headband and shooting outwards, but I wanted to capture a shot facing inwards that featured me in it. I had the whole concept pictured in my mind. It would be a shot of me running through sunny Los Angeles, and at the finish line, I was going to receive my gold medal and fall backwards into the Pacific Ocean with the Santa Monica Pier in the background. I told Dave about this idea, and we engineered a camera rig that would capture this shot. The “camera rig” was a twisty pool hose from Home Depot which I contorted my body through as Dave stuffed folded up towels between the metal and my body.

We then tied it to me. He pressed record, and there we were running 26.2 miles with a 20+ pound “camera rig” tied to my body. Every step was painful and awkward, but I was so excited to see the final video from my thoughts come into fruition.

By mile 2, runners were passing me and saying “you’re never going to make it with that!” I was determined. As if the length of the run wasn’t enough, at mile 6, it began pouring rain — not a drizzle, full on Jumanji- sized rain. I kept going. I was determined to get the shot. We continued forward running with wet socks and crossed the finish line six and a half hours later. Our phones were destroyed. Our bodies were going into shock, and we were on the verge of pneumonia. It was miserable.

A few days later, my brother edited the whole marathon experience together, and one thing was apparent from the 11-minute montage.  Unbeknownst to me, I was smiling the entire time through the pain and the rain.

dave and noah kissing at la marathon

I look back to that video on my worst days and think how closely that marathon mirrors my life. It never really matches the expectation you set forth. It is often filled with pain and with rain. But let Oprah be my witness, I am determined to see the end product and look back at the story of my life and cherish all the smiles I had throughout.

It has been a struggle to get out of bed these past few days. My heart has been so heavy since first hearing about the loss of my brothers and sisters in Orlando. I think of the love stories that will never get to unfold. I think of the kids and teenagers around the world who fear what being gay might mean in this world.

I wish I could tell all of them the same thing I wish I could have told that 10-year-old me with a handful of Tylenol: We will emerge from this darkness because we are strong and driven by love.

It has been a long road, but I could not be prouder to be who I am. I am thankful for Dave. I am thankful to be gay. I am thankful for my family and the countless allies in my life that have given me the strength to continue forward through the pain. Today, I am deciding to get out of bed.

Because I’m a fighter.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Before I Was Diagnosed With Depression, I Thought It Was Just 'Burnout'

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“Mr. Mood.”

I don’t recall how I first got this moniker in high school. But as my friends and I parted ways and headed off to different universities, the nickname fell by the wayside.

I never gave “Mr. Mood” a second thought… until 23 years later, on Monday, June 11, 2012.

That’s the day I walked into my doctor’s office with a self-diagnosis of burnout. Dr. Google and WebMD told me so. I hadn’t seen my doctor in over eight years, because men in their 30s are stubborn and still think of themselves as invincible.

“Mr. Claude, burnout is not a medical condition. You are going through a major depression, and I suspect you may have an underlying, unspecified mood disorder.” So said the man in the white coat, after 45 minutes of filling out assessment questionnaires and what felt like taking the stand for cross-examination.

I was stunned. Burnout, I could accept. As a workaholic, putting in 50- to 60-hour work weeks, I could almost wear burnout as a “badge of honor.”

I didn’t fully realize what the doctor’s preliminary diagnosis meant. I figured two to three weeks of vacation and I’d be back to the grind in no time.

“You are going back to work right now only to transfer your files and hand in your BlackBerry,” said the doctor. “Tell your boss you don’t know when you’ll be back.”

Now wait a second… Clearly this man doesn’t understand how irreplaceable I am. This being a Monday, I try to negotiate an extension of the effective date on the sick note, so I could finish off the work week.

“If you drop dead of a heart attack tomorrow morning, your office won’t be any better off.” No counter-argument to be made here. I was shut down immediately.

I turned in the BlackBerry an hour or so later, mumbling something about “stress leave” as I shuffled off in a daze to catch the bus home. I didn’t set foot in the office again until three months later. “Doctor Summeroff” had had the last word.

Having an extended summer “holiday” sounds like a blast, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Far from it. It was genuine sick leave, plain and simple.

When you’re in the midst of depression’s grasp, there is no enjoyment of pretty much anything. My so-called summertime activities consisted of doctor’s appointments, counselling sessions through the Employee Assistance Program and trips to the book store for the latest self-help book. Otherwise, I spent the summer taking extended naps, curled up on the couch, watching mindless television or reading novels to distract myself and escape the fog of depression. And dreading forced social interactions.

Sure enough, my diagnosis was later confirmed by a psychologist: the now specified mood disorder being persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia, a chronic form of milder depression) coupled with a major depressive episode, making it a double depression. And just to keep me perpetually on my toes, I was simultaneously diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Or as I like to call this trifecta, the Super-sized Combo of mental health challenges.

Stigma, silence and shame are why I never knew about a family history of anxiety and depression. My own breakdown led to family members stepping out of the shadows to disclose their own struggles and that of those long since gone. My maternal grandmother. Aunts and uncles. My mother. My sister.

Stigma and shame are real barriers to treatment, and some sufferers say the stigma is worse than the illnesses themselves.

That’s why it is so important for those of us struggling with mental health issues and illnesses to speak out and share our stories. To let others suffering in silence know they are not alone. That mental health issues are much more common than we think. And that mental illnesses are treatable.

Had I known about my own family history with anxiety and depression, I truly believe I would have sought treatment sooner. Gotten better, much faster. And picked up on the signs and symptoms all those years ago, captured in a nickname: Mr. Mood.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was the moment that made you realize it was time to face your mental illness? What was your next step? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What I Want You to Know as a Psychologist Who Has Depression

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I have a mental illness.

It’s taken hours of talk therapy, months of finding the right medication and years of work to learn how to live successfully with it.

I’ve redefined how I think and feel — and learned what kinds of people and experiences to limit or allow in my life.

Now at age 55, I’ve come to know the textures of my own mental illness and the wisdom that comes from living within its margins.

But there was a time when I wasn’t so wise. A time when my mental illness overwhelmed me. A time, when at age 19, I was ready to end my life.

As a young girl, I didn’t even know was depressed. I was always tired and tearful and just thought everyone felt those kinds of things. And no one — teachers, friends or family — took notice of my depression back then either. Partly because children weren’t thought to experience clinical depression. Partly because I was able to use a smile to hide my pain.

But as I grew older, my depression worsened. The tiredness and tearfulness I felt as a child morphed into an unshakable fatigue and a looming despair. In college, I became withdrawn, had trouble keeping up in school and was socially splintered from others. I skipped classes and then stopped going to college altogether. I slept hours at a time in bed. Sometimes I didn’t know if it was morning or afternoon, or if it was a Tuesday or a Thursday. And the fatigue was just the tip of the iceberg. What bubbled below the surface were negative, menacing and dangerous thoughts. And feelings that completely overwhelmed me.

Luckily, my suicide attempt was interrupted and I got immediate help. I began working with a psychologist who helped me understand mental illness — more specifically, mood disorders — and the one I was struggling with which was called unipolar depression. I learned how my own life story and my genetics created the perfect storm for my mental illness to hit. Psychotherapy not only saved my life, it changed my life. I decided to become and psychologist and treat others who had the very same mental illness I did.

Now in full remission over 25 years, I use my personal experiences with depression to inform my professional work. This dual approach gives me a unique perspective because not only do I know what it’s like to diagnose and treat depression… I know what it’s like to live with it, too. I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk.

Personally, I understand what it’s like to have mental illness. How you can feel betrayed by your own mind and body. I understand the shame that comes from needing medication. And the frustration from side effects. The weight gain. The loss of libido. The night sweats and the hand tremors, just to name a few. And I know how hard it is to take the skills learned in therapy and apply them to real life. I’ve also felt the cold hard stares and stigmatizing remarks from others when they discovered I have a mental illness. I remember a pharmacist once telling me when I called in for a refill, “Yes, you can’t forget to pick up your Prozac. There’s a full moon out tonight.”

Now, a therapist doesn’t need to live through an event or have firsthand knowledge of illness to help someone heal. But my own depression informed me in ways that clinical training and education never could.

So, what if you knew depression as a doctor and as a patient?

Well, you’d know these six things.

As a doctor I’d tell you:

Stigma is still as bad today as it was decades ago. Instead of technology and science helping explain mental illness, the general public is still uneducated about what a person living with mental illness is really like. Fear and ignorance is also found in the healthcare community — with doctors and nurses stigmatizing people with mental illness. Research has shown that diagnostic overshadowing — which is defined as the tendency for health professionals to overlook symptoms of patients with mental illness because they stigmatize them — is a huge problem. As a result, children and adults with mental illness suffer higher rates of physical illnesses and undiagnosed disorders — and are more likely to die prematurely than members of the general population. The state of stigma is so bad,  the World Health Organization called the conditions endured by many with mental illness “a hidden human rights emergency.

As a doctor, I’d tell you health professionals aren’t using enough of new technology to help patients with depression. Personalized medicine, particularly genetic metabolism testing, can help depressed patients shave months, even years of trying to find the right medication. Genetic testing also reduces the likelihood of side effects and adverse reactions — some of the big reasons why patients stop their meds. And can help find more genetically-suited medications. And can detect treatment resistant depression. Personalized medicine is a field that offers enormous hope.

As a doctor, I’d tell you that the most important part of recovery for depression is consistency — or what is clinically called treatment adherence. Consistency doesn’t just mean going to psychotherapy. Or taking your medication. Consistency means making every psychotherapy appointment. Being on time for sessions, and making sure you don’t skip treatment because you want to go to the beach or just don’t feel like talking. Consistency means taking your medication every day at the same time, with the same dose. Consistency means making sure you get refills in time so there’s no break or gap in your medication regime. Treatment adherence means you aim to eat well, sleep well and exercise. The single biggest issue I see as doctor treating depression is how children and adults rarely adhere to their treatment plan. But thing is, once consistency is attained, recovery begins. And that’s where hope of feeling better becomes a reality. The mantra of real estate is location, location, location. For living with mental illness, your mantra needs to be consistency, consistency, consistency.

As a patient I’d tell you:

Please watch your words. Don’t tell me to snap out of it. Buck up or work harder. You’d never say that to someone who has another illness. You need to respect depression is an illness. One that involves serious neurobiology. Just like you wouldn’t expect one round of chemo to cure someone’s cancer, or one shot of insulin to regulate blood sugar, recovery from depression won’t happen with one dosage of medication or a therapy session. Depression is a chronic illnesses that requires acceptance.

Living with depression means I need to know my triggers. So, please respect me when I say no to things that may be too much for me to do. Like, if I say I can’t have a drink on your birthday, or can’t stay out till two in the morning — or that I don’t want to go see the latest tear-jerker film. There’s a reason for my “No’s.” I can’t mix alcohol with my medication. I can’t stay out too late because lack of sleep is such a serious trigger for me. Or a super sad movie can be too emotionally overwhelming. So please honor my needs so I can keep my treatment plan strong. Self-care is a vital piece to my well-being.

As a patient, I want you to know there’s a good chance my depression might overwhelm me again. Studies show that upwards of 70 percent of people who have experienced two episodes of depression can have a relapse – so I need you to know what to do, who to call and where to go if I fall into a serious depressive episode. This is called an emergency plan. My emergency plan contains the contact information of my healthcare team, my pharmacy, the nearest hospital and other important things. You may have to call 9-1-1 to get me to the ER if I won’t go willingly. And don’t worry if I get angry, become resistant or say mean things to you. Once I recover, I won’t care about being mad. I’ll be thankful that you cared enough about me to help when my illness was clouding my reasoning. I’ll be thankful to be alive.

Depression is a serious but treatable disorder.

As a doctor, I’m here to tell you there is hope.

And as a patient, I’m here to tell you there is healing.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Complex Answer to 'What Does Depression Feel Like?'

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This question comes up a lot. Doctors and psychiatrists, as well as friends and family, want to know what depression feels like. I never really know what to tell them. The answer would need to be updated hourly, at least for me, because that is how often my mood seems to change.

The other day I decided to take a stab at it and try my best to explain what my depression felt like, that day, and this is what I came up with.

Today my depression feels like I can’t breathe or think or eat, but lying in bed might be all right.

Today it feels like even though I had a nice day, I am now in bed and thinking of how it feels like no amount of good days can make this worth it

Today it feels like this is never going to end and no medication or treatment could possibly ever help.

Today feels like rain because the severity of my depression seems to change with the weather.

Today feels like I want to throw away all my meds or just take them all, and I really can’t decide which.

Today feels like I am alone and no one could possibly understand this feeling, so I won’t talk about it.

This, is how my depression feels today.

Had you asked me that same question three hours ago, I would have told you how my depression was this morning, and this would have been the answer:

This morning, my depression is manageable.

This morning, I ate breakfast.

This morning, I smiled on my way out the door and took a 40-minute nature walk on my way to work.

This morning, I felt light, like I didn’t have too much to think about.

This morning, for a brief moment, I forgot I have depression.

That is the answer to what depression feels like — a constant roller coaster of feelings that changes so fast it is almost impossible to keep track of.

What this has taught me is that there is almost zero relationship between the things that happen in a day and my mood.

I often get told I should be happy because I had a good day.

Unfortunately, this does not mean a good night. Or a good next day. Or even a good next five minutes.

I can have bad things happen and deal with them as anyone else who is not depressed would, and move on with my day.

I can have an amazing day and feel like it was the hardest day of my life by the end of it.

Moments and feelings are not always related. My depression is too smart to only attack when something bad happens. This means I need to accept the fact that I am stuck on this roller coaster and to remember every fall is followed by a rise back up.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Grappling With Grief Over Someone I Didn't Know

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My battle with depression has been a long one, and each day I encounter new things I need to overcome. Although I have come a long way, my emotions are uncontrollable sometimes.

After I heard the tragic news of singer Christina Grimmie’s passing, I was immediately shocked. I’d grown up listening to her beautiful covers with my uncle. When I first heard the news, I was met with sadness, but most of all, anger. I kept asking myself, “Why would someone do this to such a kind person?,” but obviously, I’ll never know the answer.

Two days after, I spent a whole day crying. I listened to a number of her covers, and her voice resonated with my soul. I felt guilt for not keeping up-to-date with her career anymore. Last I’d heard of her was when she had entered “The Voice.” I was so proud. Proud of a person I did not know.

The pain behind my tears was depressing. I could feel my heart physically ache, and I do not know why. Yes, I did feel as though she was a friend, but ultimately, she wasn’t. But her personality made it feel like all her fans were her family, and that is the tragedy. She was truly an amazing and kind person who did not deserve such an ending. Her success had just started to bloom, she deserved a life of music, and instead, her life ended with murder.

I can recall another time I felt an uncontrollable amount of sadness and heartbreak. A few years ago, a person my age died by suicide. I’d only met her a couple of times. Yet when I heard she had taken her life, I was crushed. I was surrounded by people who knew her, but again, I was (and still am) confused as to why it hit me so hard. I would have full-on breakdowns just thinking about her. It made me feel silly, because why was I feeling that pain? She didn’t even know my name, yet I cried as if she had been my lifelong best-friend.

My therapist explained to me it was perhaps due to the similarities. She played the piano, as did I. Back then I was in a dark place, so again, a similarity.  Still, I felt extremely uncomfortable crying for someone I essentially did not know.

My question now is how is it that I am much better than before, yet I am still sucked into a deep hole of darkness each time someone I do not know dies? Yes, I know death is a sad thing, but being sad and broken are two different things. And I was/am broken about it. I find it hard to handle these situations. Being in bed all day because I couldn’t stop crying made it worse; it felt like I had no one to talk to, because I couldn’t even explain what I was feeling other than despair and sorrow. I couldn’t explain why, and I still can’t. I feel helpless, because I am. I cannot express myself because I seem to have forgotten how. And everywhere I look there is an article about Christina or a video of her that just breaks me a bit more each time. I know in a week my feelings will fade out, but this is bound to happen again.

I am left feeling a sense of mystery. Will these feelings diminish? Or am I bound to a life of uncontrollable grief? Is this simply a side affect of depression, or is it just my personality?

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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