All week I have pondered how to address the subject of grief without referring to my own experience, but it has proved to be an extremely difficult task. Grief was what led to the dramatic decline in my own mental health and towards the brink of death on more than one occasion. I will therefore refer to my own personal experience more than in my previous posts because it played such a huge part in what was the rapid deterioration of ‘a little bit poorly’ to ‘she’s going to die’.
So. Grief. Typically it occurs after the death of someone we love, but can also refer to the loss of friendships or relationships. It is such a strange type of pain that is very different for each individual, even if you are grieving for the same person. However, in the main I’m going to use bereavement as the example simply because it is what I have experienced the most in my life. Lost loved ones are both reasons that have contributed to my mental health problems and also my recovery from them, which I realise sounds odd and is probably incomprehensible in many ways due to the juxtaposition between them.
In addition, it can be a challenge for those unaffected by your own mental health problems to understand and deal with in an understanding manner. It is hard not to take it personally but you have to remember that they are likely confused and bewildered by your behaviour, and unable to see the bigger picture. Some of us are naturally born with empathy and compassion as personality traits whereas others are not so much. For some individuals they can only see what is visibly right in front of them.
Just because somebody expresses their pain through moodiness or anger or pretend-happiness doesn’t mean they are suffering any less; it is just the way that they are made. Although I initially cried for my Nonna until the funeral, for months on end afterwards I was in such turmoil that not eating and being in ‘self-destruct mode’ gave me something else to focus on. I was so determined to be strong for my family that I wanted to block out all emotion, and starvation allowed me to do that. On the outside I was losing weight but on the inside that little voice inside my head kept telling me that everything was ok.
Everything was far from ok.
Inside I felt like a scared little girl that just wanted a hug from her Nonna and to sit down holding her hand whilst she told me stories from the past. I remember in my darkest moments pleading aloud for God to end my life too because I couldn’t stand to live with the agony any longer. There were times when I gladly would have welcomed death with open arms, just to escape the madness that was going on inside my head; the deafening roar that was seemingly endless. You know what though?
I GOT THROUGH IT!
It took years of therapy, medication, tears and tantrums that still continue to this day but I got through the worst of it. There are more good days than bad and I know that the more effort I put into using the skills I have been taught in therapy, the easier it will become.
Next week I am filming a short DVD for the NHS in which I will talk about how therapy has changed my life. It is a small way in which I can try to help others who are in need because were it not for the intensive care I received, these words would not have been written. It probably sounds rather dramatic but there is no point in skirting around what is obvious to myself and those closest to me. I do not speak for attention or shock factor but merely because I want to highlight just how desperate an event, like the loss of a close family member, can destroy so many lives for such a very long time.
Anyhow, I want people to know and please remember that it is ok to cry. It’s ok to be angry because you’ve lost your unborn child or your much loved Nonna or your dad or your puppy or your girlfriend. It doesn’t matter what the kind of loss it is, pain is pain and very individual for each of us. There isn’t a time limit on how long you should feel intense distress, and anyone who tries to tell you differently is not worth taking up space in your brain. Focus on you and your recovery; not the unkindness or rumours that you hear along the grapevine.
You are strong, worth it and wonderful. Really, you are.