This is the hardest post I have ever written. I’m going to tell you what it was like for me to lose a loved one to depression. After almost twenty years of not telling anyone about it (except those close to me), I decided that it is time to open up. Whatever you are dealing with, know that I mean well. And if you are suffering from any mental health problems, please consult a therapist. Like, now.
There are 5 stages of loss and grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I tried dividing my story into these 5 stages. Which didn’t really work as I find that, for me at least, these 5 stages seem to run over into each other.
I’m still bargaining (if only I would have known then what I know now, I could have saved him, etc.), I can still get angry and depressed sometimes, but I’ve also accepted it. And this post sure kills my denial. So that’s another stage that I’ve overcome, hooray!
Yeah, my dad died from, eh, a disease
That’s what I told people in the first 15 years whenever someone would ask me about my parents. They would notice that I didn’t mention my dad. Then they would ask where he was. Usually, I would say that he died from a disease (which is true, I just didn’t want to say it was a mental one). Cancer, they probably assumed.
I didn’t want to know anything about his “disease”. I ran away from anything that even remotely smelled like mental health issues. Instead, I placed him on a pedestal. He was my soul mate and my fallen angel that would stay with me my whole life. It wasn’t his fault he left me. It was the depression’s fault.
But no, my dad committed suicide. He chose to leave this life behind. And he chose to leave me behind. Realizing that made me pretty darn angry and sad. But how can you be angry with a man who is a victim himself? You can’t. So I got angry at the world instead. I built a wall 10 stories high, and everybody could go to hell.
Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve never felt more alone in my life. I had a bunch of friends, my mom, my brother, and a boyfriend, but I could regularly sink into this deep, dark hole, feeling utterly alone in the world. I felt like the one and only person that understood me was gone. I cried, cried, and cried. And cried some more. I did think about death myself. Not that I really wanted to die, but at times, it did seem like a nice “break” from all the pain.
At other times, I happily pushed this pain away. I didn’t want to feel any of it. It worked for a while until my body was so stressed that it surprised me with massive panic attacks and periods of severe anxiety.
Finally, in my mid-twenties, I started to talk to therapists about it. And in the last 5 years, I’ve read everything I could find about depression and mental wellbeing. Yoga, meditation, breathwork, surfing, and therapy were the things that eventually set me free. This led to healthy eating, listening to my body, self-development, creativity, traveling, and close(r) relationships – which have made me an overall happier person.
I understand now that self-love and self-esteem are crucial for mental wellbeing. And I know that people with mental health issues find it so, so hard to ask for help. Their lack of self-love makes them think they are a burden.
I understand that, at that moment, my dad didn’t see any other solution for his suffering than stepping out of this life. I know it did NOT mean that he didn’t love me or my mom and brother.
But I have also experienced what it does to those left behind. And I tell you, sometimes I wonder if he would’ve done the same if he had known what the actual consequences were. If he had understood all of the pain that he was about to cause. Not only the pain from missing him. Not only from grief. But also from fucking up his loved ones, emotionally and psychologically, for a large part of their lives.
Acceptance and spiritual healing?
Of course, that’s the hurt part of me speaking. The “spiritually awakened” part of me will say that the pain actually opened the door to spiritual healing. That it brought me to where I am now. That it taught me to live life to the fullest.
That it taught me to follow my heart because life is too precious to be stuck anywhere and feel like shit. That it helped me to help others by sharing my story. Which I actually couldn’t do for almost 20 years as I was terrified of what other people might think of me. Of me. Not my dad. Me.
But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, his suicide completely and utterly fucked me up. I am still learning not to compare or somehow connect guys that I date to my dad. I am still learning that I can’t find a replacement for the soul mate that was my dad. I am still learning that there is no such thing as a soul mate.
I am still learning to accept myself as I am, know that I am enough, love myself and be content with that. And I am still learning what stability feels like, how to overcome my attachment/abandonment issues, and how to stay relaxed even though my body is wired to stress out about the smallest things due to childhood trauma. It might take me another 20 years, but hey, baby steps.
It also did really teach me some other good stuff as well. But I don’t want to go into that. I don’t want to end with a positive note. Because, honestly, the pain from losing him will stay with me for the rest of my life. And sometimes it’s as fresh as it was almost 20 years ago. I don’t feel like covering that up (anymore) with some freaking positive, unicorny endnote (but I still will, I am me after all. Eternal optimist).
Let’s share our demons and kill them together
I feel like being raw, honest, and open instead. Depression and suicide fucking suck. There’s no positive note for that. What I do want to do, however, is to help open up the conversation about this topic. There are way too many people living in the dark, due to stigmatization and fear. Life is a bitch sometimes. And EVERYBODY is fucked up, in one way or another. We need to be real about it and share our stories, so other people can relate and find solace.
This was the first part of my story, there might be many more to come.
Hope it helps in some way.
PS Don’t say or think that I’m “courageous” for sharing my story. It’s not courage. It’s more about becoming real with myself and not giving a shit about what people think of my story anymore. 🙂
PPS Please, please, please seek help if you are suffering from depression or any other mental health problems. There is no shame in seeking help. Your problems are NOT too complicated. You are NOT a burden. Always prioritize yourself and your wellbeing.