Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Grief- Depression

Welcome to stage three of my series on grief counseling. Today's topic is depression. Everyone gets depressed once in a while. If someone tells you they've never been depressed and they are over the age of ten...THEY ARE LYING.

That's like the couple that say they never argue. Someone is stuffing their feelings and they are not communicating to each other. They are in big trouble.

You've had a significant loss in your life and it has changed forever. If there is any more greater reason to be depressed, I can't think of one. Everyone gets blue when thinking of what they've lost.

Honestly, I still get in a blue mood on August 2nd and November 19th, the anniversaries of my mother's death and my son's. It's been 30 years for one and 27 for the other. These were traumatic losses for me and those dates will live forever in my brain until I die, maybe even after that. Like I've said, there is no cure for grief only coping mechanics.

You feel a lack of energy. You cry a lot. You get angered easily and inappropriately. Your blue. You may even think your life is over. You may even think of suicide to end this pain and you lack the will to go on. After all, everyone else would be better off without you putting yourself and them through this. Did I hit a raw nerve or strike a chord of truth with these statements?

First, realize that this is depression. It's a disease process. It's also a normal process when faced with a loss. It's part of the cycle of grief. What I mentioned earlier about getting blue is different than what I'm talking about here. That's old healing, but a remembrance honoring a past hurt and family in my life who have passed on. It doesn't fully impact my daily life to the exception of all else. That is the huge difference.
With the current loss, everything is fresh and in your face constantly. Every time you turn around you are repeatably confronted by the loss. Yes, I'm still there after a year since my stroke, but there is a new purpose in my life...moving past the loss. It went from constant to intermittent and I will always have bouts with it. There's not a day that goes by that I wished I had use of my arm and hand back (especially for typing), or could walk again, or speak normally, or return to my own, semi normal, old life. But it no longer consumes every waking minute or thought. I am stringing words that make sense and sentences. I am typing. Those are major milestones and should be looked at as such. They are proving to me that I am moving on with my life.

By moving on and getting on with your life depression lessens. At first you are going through the motions but with time, you are no longer an automaton. You find yourself taking an interest in the things that you are are healing. You are awaking after a deep slumber. You may do this with drug therapy and professional counseling or you may do it all on your own. Don't be ashamed of seeking help. You are taking steps to get better. Admitting you need help is a big step in the healing process. I, myself, am on an antidepressant. I originally, it was prescribed to deal with my fibromyalgia, but it has also helped with my depressive state after my stroke. No it doesn't account for my mostly cheery disposition that's natural.
  • Get together with friends and family for an outing. You may have to force yourself. You may be surprised that you enjoyed yourself. Don't feel guilty about this.
  • Go to church if this was your usual practice.
  • Find a new interest or hobby that you didn't do before. Even stop and notice how the trees move in the wind.
  • Fill your hours with busy work. Anything you can do without thinking. You are not suppressing your grief only sidelining it for a period of time. Be sure to set a time limit or you will be stuffing it.
  • What a comedy and laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. I remember when my mother died. All of were heart broken because we held hope so tightly until the end. My sister brought up the memory of Mom where she held out a finger shaking it when you were young saying, "You no cry." It became a symbol that carried us through the tough days ahead. It caused us all to chuckle at the memory. It still does.
  • Baby steps. You won't heal over night. You will not heal tomorrow, but maybe in the months to come it will be there and take hold without you even noticing it.
Remember everything in life is about baby steps. You have to know how to balance the good and the bad. My children, now adults, say when I threaten them, "Yeah, but I can outrun you now." And I usually retort one of two things, "Yeah, but I can throw this cane like my old police baton and trip you." Or but when I do catch you, I'll be busier than a one legged woman in a butt kicking contest." I am a one functional leg woman after all.

I'll start you off. I dare you not to laugh or at least crack a smile at least one of these.

I saw that smile. Felt good didn't it? Right after my stroke I watched AFV for weeks on end to learn how to laugh again through my depression. Sometimes laughter is the only way to stop from crying.

Remember even your momma told you, "It's only a phase"? Depression is too. It's part of the grief cycle. If it gets too bad don't hesitate to get help. If you don't recognize it in yourself, listen to others around you. They see it. In the grand scheme of things this is a pit stop and it will get better although it might not seem like it.


  1. "LYING," you say? Not I. I do not consider myself depressed; when I say I'm not depressed, I may be WRONG, but I am NOT lying. Yes, I cry more easily, but I have remained engaged and interested in life. And I'm truly cheerful much of the time, despite how shitty I feel sometimes. Is it "depressed" when "roller coaster" is a more accurate description?

  2. I'm with Barb. Can't you just feel normally sad for a time. I thought depression had more criteria like time frames of feeling blue...and other more defining characteristics. I've delt with some difficult things and felt sadness, but each time...especially the brain injury I implemented lots of techniques to avoid a crippling depression that could impact my recovery. I was very afraid of getting depressed....and sought out a lot of professionals to be sure I didn't miss something. I was certainly sad at times, but I wouldn't say depressed ever.

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  4. Grief and depression are both a process and we have to go through the steps. We can't linger too long and we can't rush through the season.

  5. I *have* been depressed...more than once. Those well meaning people who told me to "snap out of it" will always be with me when my mood turns down. I knew they had never experienced it or they wouldn't have dared to say that.

  6. Barb, you admit the roller coaster like I do and admit being depressed at time by it. Aren't we all? While you don't admit to the classical depression be aware that there are any types of depression. Not all depression gets so bad that you can't function. You are just a proactive person like I am.

    Elizabeth- I admire your proactive stance.

    Alex- it is a process and it can't be rushed.

    Zan Marie- Telling a depressed person to snap out of it is like pissing on a raging forest fire to pit it out.

  7. Jo, I still won't call myself depressed ... maybe I'm just too stubborn - not too stubborn to GET depressed, but too stubborn to see it. Sad is sad - and I'll admit to sad. Angry? Yes. Actually, the word that I think best describes where I am most of the time is "disappointed." i am SO disappointed that I was given this challenge.

  8. Laughter is the best medicine. That's why from time to time I post funny things on my blog, to make people laugh.

  9. Barb, Sad is sad, yes. The extreme is depression. Now about being disappointed... I can see where you are coming from there. There are just so many people out there that couldn't handle what we as stroke survivors go through on a daily basis. I imagine you could name at least ten. But the achievements you've made since your stroke are phenomenal! It takes creativity, tenacity, stubbornness, and just plain ol' guts to survive and conquer. You've got it all!


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