Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Double-edged Swords

As I mentioned in a previous post, I kind of started going downhill in October. I thought maybe it was grief, or a true, clinical depression. A chance encounter with an internet article made me reevaluate, and my current self-diagnosis is actually Seasonal Affective Disorder, appropriately acronymed as S.A.D. I know I'm prone to seasonal depression. Have been for years, and moving to the sunny desert made such a difference in my life, which only confirmed it. My mom has it. My cousin has it. I've even blogged about it elsewhere, years ago. I posted how I was always vigilant about it come fall, and A sent me a sweet note telling me that he would've never guessed that bubbly ol' me would ever have a problem with periodic depression. He vowed he would do all he could to help me avoid the darkness, and I have to admit, he did a damn fine job of it.

That is, until he died.

And that's the complicating factor. It didn't even occur to me that S.A.D. was what was going on with me, because for the last 3 autumns, grief HAS been the overriding emotional theme. I really didn't wonder why I felt down, depressed, wanting to hide out and avoid the world. I knew, clear as day. I was grieving, and I was taking my own not-so-sweet time about it. So when the shadows crept into my life this fall, I had long since forgotten about S.A.D., because it never had a chance against the other emotional darkness I was grappling with. When I figured it out, it was kind of a slap-your-head realization: Oh. Of course.

I've been making a point to sit out in the sun at lunch every day since (with the exception of yesterday, when it was dark and cold), and stripping down to minimal decency to work on my Vitamin D production out in the sun, and I am pleased to find that it seems to be helping. I have felt less hopeless, and have had an easier time prying myself out of my bed each morning. And I can see what else is going on with me now that the fog has lifted a bit.

I realized lately that I haven't really had much to say, to think, to do about A's absence. There hasn't been a lot of grief. There hasn't been a lot of self-talk, which is odd for me--my head is a busy place most of the time. At most, there's kind of been a regular acknowledgment that he is not far from my thoughts, but no actual thinking about him in many cases. It doesn't feel like there's nothing there, though--it feels like it's locked behind a door, and I'm not opening it. Like I'm pretending it's not there, even though I know it is. I feel like I'm holding him, and his constant absence, at arm's length. Maybe because there's nothing I can do about it. Maybe because I've done all I can. Maybe because it seems futile to gnaw on it anymore. I feel like I'm self-protecting by not engaging in those thoughts. Maybe because they are so bittersweet. The bad memories of when he died and the aftermath of that make me sick to my stomach. The wonderful memories make me cry. So, 3 1/2 years out, I'm finally practicing active denial. Awesome!

I don't really like it; it feels like I'm being fake with myself, somehow. But as I've advised others, a person's got to feel what they feel when they feel it; grief has its own wisdom, and the wise griever just follows it, trusting it'll take her where she needs to be. Ah, if only I would attend my own lectures.

I realized the other day, as I was busily decorating for Christmas and wrapping gifts, that this Christmas, my 4th without A, I haven't stumbled across a gift for him yet. The last 3 years--or maybe just 2; I really can't remember that first year so well--something in a catalog has presented itself to me as the perfect gift for him, and I cut out the picture and put it in my journal to "give" it to him. It satisfied that urge. But this year, it hasn't happened yet. So I guess I don't need to do that anymore? Or this year, anyway. So many of these survival rituals I put into place, only to slowly let go of them over time. And every time I do, I am sad to be letting something else go, while at the same time recognizing that it heralds healing, and should be celebrated. But I never really feel like celebrating it. It's more of, "Well, I suppose that's a good thing. Carry on."

I miss him. But I'm tired of missing him, I think. It's exhausting, and made more so by the fact that there's no relief in sight. I will miss him until I die, which could be a very long time from now. I can't always deal with that truth, so I just am setting it aside, even though I'm not really. I'm watching the scary movie of my own mind through my fingers--not watching, but still looking.


  1. I read this entry a while ago, when you first wrote it, but didn't click through the link in my email inbox to post a comment.

    Nothing special to say...just that everything you wrote in this entry, I feel or felt also, either at 3+ years out or currently.

    I "like" (if that's the right word for it) that there might be other reasons besides grief for how you/we are these days. S.A.D., huh? Nice initialism; quite fitting. I've been wondering a lot this past year (or maybe just the past 6 months or so, especially after all the stuff with our dog) if I've moved past the official reason of "grief" to "mere" depression. I don't think I'm clinically depressed, but such a prolonged malaise and soul-deep weariness and sadness--even if it's not as sharp as in years past--seems like it should be called something, you know?

    Anyhoo, out of deep, writerly words. Thinking of you and sending you commiserating widow hugs, my friend.

  2. I get that weariness. Boy, do I get it. You feel a thousand years old, like you've lived through more than any person should, and you just want some fuzzy pajamas and a teddy bear and to go to sleep for, oh, forever.