My generation is a fan of the labels or labeling something non label-able. I thought I was never a part of the club. Now, I’m not so sure that I’m not the president with all the rotating labels I had for myself cataloged alphabetically and color coded in my head. I took Labels like ambitious, benevolent, curious, dedicated and placed them on my forehead for the world to see how awesome I am. Yet, labels like anxious, broken, combative and the big one DEPRESSED seemed cliché and destructive; even though they’re true. I’m never in a constant state of any one label but at any time I am a combination of the above.

 

First Step to Recovery – Acceptance

Why has it been so difficult for me to admit it?

Somewhere along the way people looked to me as stoic. So I brought into the idea others had of me as being a level-headed, private fortress that was unfazed by the many obstacles and troubles the world offered me. The truth is that the “positive” labels has made someone who’s quite sensitive feel powerful. My introverted quietness and isolation are seen as independence and wisdom rather than as a result of burying difficult emotions in a difficult environment. I donned the labels that made me feel more than capable to take on the big bad. Brave, smart, strong, wise, mature, all code for someone who has their shit together. Someone who doesn’t need but go gets.

I put on that persona like it was shiny armor and I was Joan of Arc marching out into the unforgiving world. The armor has since cracked and dulled and I now realize that I’m just human. Wine won’t band-aid resilience that’s been repeatedly tested. A kiss from the love of my life, walk in the park, favorite show…nothing seems to help. And after a few weeks of coming home and crying in my bathtub over a glass of Cabernet that’s filled with more tears than wine, I finally realized, oh fuck…I’m depressed.

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What Does it All Mean

Depression, much like sexuality, is a spectrum. At some point any one of us will experience it. This certainly isn’t my first rodeo with it. I mean, hell, I’ve even been through a Quarter-Life Crisis. This particular phase, however, is mixed like a top shelf cocktail. Grief, disappointment, struggle, depression with just a hint of self-loathing at the finish. Needless to say it’s this phase that I find particularly hard to shake. One minute I’m starting to hear the birds chirp with a peaceful feeling that everything will be okay; the next I catch myself staring up at the ceiling while Netflix has asked if I’m still watching for the past hour. So! What do yah do when you’re in the sunken place of depression? Here are some ways I plan to Daniel Kaluuya myself outta here.

 

Allow Yourself to BE Yourself

How much pressure do you put on yourself to live up to all the other labels that you’ve stamped on your forehead for the world to see? I get it. No one wants to claim something so dark and uninviting but the truth is, there’s liberation in admitting your reality. When I realized that I’d gotten into a bout of depression it was a relief because now staring at the ceiling and being unable to control my crying made sense with the appropriate label.

What didn’t help was reiterating that I was smart, strong, and dedicated on a constant lope in my head when the proper label was depressed. Once I allowed myself to be honest and clear on the state I’m in I was able to retrace the steps that brought me here. After a thorough review of those events, it’s a wonder that I didn’t find myself in the sunken place of depression a while ago. Knowing this allows me to truly see myself as strong and dedicated.

 

So I donned the labels that made me feel more than capable to take on the big bad. Brave, smart, strong, wise, mature, all code for someone who has their shit together. Someone who doesn’t need but go gets.

Think of what’s on the other side of your pain

Whether I believe the day-dream or not I still allow myself to envision my deepest desires for my life. Reminding myself that this long ass chapter shall too pass keeps me sane enough to make it through each day. Looking at the faces on the other side of my depression helps me to remember that my life is not only about pain but love and light in the relationships I have with all those who love me.

Walk it like you Talk it

I’m good for giving an impromptu pep talk. Encouraging, actively listening or in general counseling people through their anxieties/troubles. I’m fucking horrible at being in the reverse role. I’m still discovering that the early labels that created my armor didn’t leave much room for vulnerability or trust. I don’t trust people. It took years for my friends to earn my trust. It’s taking even longer for me to trust myself. One thing I’m learning day by day is that I have to allow others in. Attempting to fight the good fight alone is one of the ingredients that made up this depression recipe in the first place. Are you allowing those who love and support you to be there during this time?

It’s More like a Vacation

Being in the sunken place of depression is more like a vacationing spot. You won’t take up permanent residence here but it is a reminder that there are certain things happening in your heart, mind, and spirit that you need to sort out. Don’t get me wrong, depression honestly sucks, but the emotional growth and intimacy with others that I’m discovering here is truly amazing.  While I don’t know how long this particular “trip” will last, I plan to discover ways to metaphorically sit back, sip on perfectly mixed cocktails as I allow myself to be myself, gaze at the greener grass on the other side of it and embrace the love and support those in my life offer me.

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Your turn Builders, what are some ways you have gotten through a bout of depression (asking for a friend)! Comment below or Email if you need to talk. 

#LETSBUILD

Someone recently said that you shouldn’t grieve until the person is actually gone. Part of me agrees. Yet, part of me is familiar with that technique among others that I get advised to take. Grief is defined as a loss of something. If you perceive you’ve lost something or are losing something, is that not grief as well?

Couples divorcing grieve over the life they envisioned for themselves, growing old with a wife/husband, that will never happen. After a serious injury athletes grieve over the dream career they will never be able to achieve. Grief to me, is loss, whether realized or pending. Grief for me set in when hospice sat us down with calm voices and soft smiles to tell us about the end of life care they can provide for my dad. He’s 59. Grief set in.

Maybe he will live long enough to walk me down the aisle or to hear my child affectionately call him PaPa. Maybe. There’s hope in maybe. There’s heartbreak in maybe. I’ve lived through both. What is definite is that we will forgive, shower love and try to convince time to slow down in the coming months or years. What is Certain is that we will watch him grow weaker and the heart beat that echoed in my ears as a child will fail him. We will watch him leave.

A niece.

A brother.

Two grandmothers.

Two grandfathers.

A close brother-in-law.

An Ex.

We watched sudden and slowly as they left.

Around times such as these there will be a band of people confident that their sage advice about “death happens to all of us” and “enjoy the time you have/had” will be of comfort when it’s just infuriating for the person on the receiving end of it. Personally, I don’t want pity; I would settle for the closest thing to understanding.

To help both sides through difficult grieving, here are some ways to support your loved one and also some tips for those who are in the grieving process.

 

Tip #1

You don’t have to be happy, peaceful or “together”

Recently, years of grieving has taken its toll on me emotionally and mentally. There use to be a time when I dished out and took the beautifully simplistic advice that others throw out in times like these. That was about three deaths ago. For those of us born into a family where hospitals and funerals are the norm like reunions and yearly cruises are for other families, it’s easy to hide or downplay your grief. Don’t. It’s the process necessary for you to get back to living your life. At times during this process you may be angry and want to scream or want to be alone to cry. It’s okay. Feel what you need to feel in those moments. The world won’t give you permission to be a mess right now but I will.

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Sage Advice #1  SAY LESS

So you’re along for the ride on your loved one’s grief and let’s be honest; it’s a complete downer. When you’re not in their front row seat some advice seems logical. But this is the time when you should SAY LESS. Between all the different stages of grief including anger, which I’m currently in, the last thing your loved one needs are words. If you MUST say something it should be confined to something like this:

I love you. I know this has to be hard for you but I am here every step of the way. Period.

 

Tip #2  It is not Your job to make others comfortable with your grief

Like the first advice of feeling what you need to regardless of others, this goes hand-in-hand. Negative emotions generally make people uncomfortable. They say too much or not enough. They smother you or avoid you. It’s because negative emotions, especially grief, are things we are convinced should be hidden and dealt with alone in the late hours of night. Work only gives you 3 days to process it because society dictates it’s not important. Get Over It. So essentially most of us are terrible at dealing with it. Expressing your grief, trying to gain control of it or make sense of your situation will make other people uncomfortable.

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Their world could be just fine and you are like a rain cloud sitting next to them. Understand their awkwardness or discomfort but don’t apologize for it.

 

Sage Advice #2 Create Peace

Your loved one’s world just got turned upside down and the grief of their world has created chaos in your otherwise peaceful relationship. It’s then important for you to create peace, for your sake and theirs. They likely don’t expect you to know what to say. And just as you are confused on what to do or how to handle things, so are they. So, depending on their personality something like taking in nature, to make sense of life or playing Call of Duty, to distract from it, could be the thing you both need to find peace in a chaotic situation.

 

Personally, I don’t want pity; I would settle for the closest thing to understanding.

 

Tip #3 & Sage Advice #3  Give Yourself Space when needed

The reality of the situation makes it hard to be honest with ourselves. Someone who’s constantly dealing with negative emotions can strain/stress someone who isn’t use to them or the frequency of them. Getting the space needed to ground yourself but not so much that you’re absent from the scene can create harmony in a less than ideal situation. It is, however, important to communicate this because seeking space in a critical moment can cause a rift in an already emotionally charged environment. Love each other enough to see the other’s perspective while loving yourself enough to get the space needed to be true to your emotions, good and bad.

The tips and advice discussed are there to get you both thinking of ways you can improve this experience so that all parties are getting what they need. Grief is not a science nor is it controllable but our actions are. Make sure you’re caring for each other during this time.

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So Builders, what are some other tips or advice that can help during the grieving process. Comment below and Let’s Talk!