There’s nothing to like death to define a family. That’s something I learned this weekend.
My grandpa died last Thursday. It wasn’t exactly a shock; he was 97 and his health has been deteriorating for the better part of two years. Even so, one minute he was there in my life and the next he was gone. Nothing really prepares you for that.
Nothing prepared me for seeing my brother cry at the visitation and funeral. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my brother cry before that, but it startled me in a lot of different ways. Suddenly the person who could be compared to stone was a human, raw and vulnerable and hurting. And suddenly I was his sister, someone who could actually understand what was going on in his head.
And then there was my dad, who was surprisingly calm. I expected him to be angry and irrational, but I think maybe instead he was relieved. I can’t imagine what it must be like to watch your parent slowly die and forget all the people they loved…I guess at the end you’re just glad that wherever they are, at least they are no longer suffering. I think my dad is sad, but the weight of helplessness has been lifted off of him.
So I hugged my brother, and I hugged my dad. I cried in the moments I had alone, and then as “Taps” played when they gave my grandpa his military funeral. I was lucky I had people beside me who not only loved him, but loved me as I needed their support.
He wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a good one. He took me fishing when I was little, and told me that if I ate the crusts off of my sandwiches that they would make my hair curly. He hugged me and kissed my cheek and told me he loved me each time he saw me. He called me “Pooky Lou” sometimes and told me he’d dance with me at my wedding. And when I got older, he always asked me about my “boyfriend” (whether I had one or not) in that funny way grandparents do. He loved me very much, and was there loving me from the moment I was born until the day he died. Nothing will ever replace that kind of love, or quench the kind of sorrow you feel when it’s gone. But I’m so incredibly grateful I had it for as long as I did.
After an intense weekend of seeing out of town family, preparing for the funeral, and actually going through the process of accepting that he’s gone, I actually feel a bit better about my family. Death reminds us how important life is, and even though I don’t have a close family or necessarily a warm and fuzzy one, they are the people I’ll deal with for the rest of my life. They love me and I love them, and the rest is simply detail. Sometimes all you need to know about a person is if they will be there when you’re hurting. If they can do that, then they are worth keeping around.
Let’s get something cleared up.
I get a little sensitive when people use the word “depression”…and that shouldn’t really be a shock since depressants are pretty sensitive people. Apparently, it is, though. I have only ranted to a few people when they have misspoken about depression, but the general feeling I get from people is that throwing that word around like “yo momma” shouldn’t bother anyone. It’s also like the word “gay”, and how people think you’re just there to piss on the fun when you tell them not to use that word in a negative connotation. So basically, “What? I can’t say I’m depressed? Fuck off; stop being so sensitive.”
And that is why I have a love/hate relationship with people.
People say they’re depressed all the time. After a breakup, a sappy movie, a conversation about death or the prospect of getting old and having saggy boobs….”Okay, this is depressing me. Let’s change the subject.” I know I’ve been guilty of saying it so casually as well, which I look back on as trying to convince myself that I had been cured for good. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving myself a free pass or anything. I try to avoid using it unless I’m talking about the real deal.
Look, I’m not trying to be a pain in the ass to people, I’m not trying to tell them what to do. I just want them to know the facts before they say stuff like that. And in the process I suppose it will get you readers (aww I hope I didn’t just jinx that) to know what the straight up business that I associate with the phrase “my depression”.
Depression is different from sadness. It is the prolonged feeling of anxiety, sadness, anger, low self-esteem, stress, grief, or loss of interest in life that can last for weeks, months, and years. Imagine the toughest problem you have ever faced, then imagine it sitting on your shoulders for two years, and you should have a pretty good snapshot of how depression affects people.
The worst part is dealing with it. Dealing with just the mere knowledge that you have such a problem. The questions of “When won’t I feel like this?” “Why isn’t this going away?” “How can I fix this?” “Am I being punished?” “Will I ever find someone who understands?”. Trying to move past a problem that seems to have taken over your life.
And it’s not just one problem. It’s a million problems tied together in a massive web of reasons why you no longer want to get up in the morning. Reasons why you have trouble laughing, feeling carefree, why you can’t stop eating or have stopped eating. Why you’d rather sleep all the time, why you stop putting effort into how you look. It is literally almost a drain on the life you have in you.
During depression I have vowed to starve myself, harbored grim intentions to burn myself, have cut myself, have seriously considered driving into incoming traffic, have even cried in the street at 9:30 at night in my ex-boyfriend’s neighborhood to my school counselor. I have been to rehabilitation, to therapy. I’m not saying this makes me such a superior in the league of depression, I’m just trying to convey how serious it really is. I’ve read stories of people drenching themselves in boiling water and ending up with third-degree burns, of trying to overdose on pills, of getting ulcers from the stress they have. Doing these things is only a representation of the pain people go through, and what can be worse are the people who release none of it at all.
It is serious. It is a disease to some of us, a flaw in our unbalanced brains. To some it can be fixed and to others it will be a continuous part of their lives.
I have gone to therapy, quit, gone back to therapy, started taking antidepressants, started going to an outpatient rehabilitation program, was released from the program, started going to a psychiatrist, continued going to therapy and now also attend a group therapy every week.
And I actually feel pretty good about where I am in life now. I feel stable and calm and trust myself. I have been feeling this way for two months now, and am hoping to continue that stretch throughout this year as well as move past my recent nine month relapse.
I just want people to know, it’s not just feeling “sad” “blue” “down in the dumps”. It’s more.
Boy, what a depressing thought.