Grief and Depression suck. I haven’t written much, or really anything but obituaries in the last two years…. It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’m not in that great a space. My birthday was always a big deal growing up. That was one of the things Dad did really well. Even when I got older there was always multiple celebrations and gatherings.... until this year (I’m now I’m having lunch with some friends so I’m rescued, but until a few hours ago I was pretty low).
Lets recap my last 8 years just so you have some history… if you aren’t aware:
2009 - Herniated Discs in Back – spent 6 months not really able to sit or stand for more than 5 minutes at a time being in agonizing pain. 3 epidurals … two of which caused more pain and permanent nerve damage. Spent another 6+ months slowly building strength and less pain. I still get pain flare ups.
2009-2011 – Misadventures in love and dating… we’ll just leave it at that… much heartache and poor choices… really, extremely poor choices.
2009 -2011 trying to find jobs I can do with my back finding things I’m passionate about and enjoy (wine and acting) and make money (admin and reception)… 6 job changes.
2011 – 2012 finding a job I really like, building a wine program I was immensely proud of, but then experiencing awful discrimination and harassment about my looks. (It’s the choice of a woman (or man frankly) if they wear makeup and how they wear there hair (unless it’s a restaurant (due to food safety) or otherwise written in the employee guidelines.. which it wasn’t… thank you)
2012-2013 – Like my job and co-workers at a company not at all connected to anything that I have an interest in but it pays ok though less than what I had bargained for in my interview and refuses to up my pay.
2013 – Dearest stepdad dies from fast acting lymphoma. Devastated. (much grief)
2013 – Roommates who I love asked me to move because they wanted their space (totally got it… love them… timing just sucked… devastated)
2013 – Move to Montana
2013 – Breakup with boyfriend of 2 years.
2013 – Go through three different jobs, two seasonal and one just awful.
2014 – Dad goes into a coma.. almost dies, comes out of it is miserable and sick… this year is spent sorting out his stuff and health… plus side found an amazing job I loved and co workers I adored in a field I enjoy at good pay.
2015 – Decide I need to take the leap and pursue my acting. Move to LA.
2015 – Dad tells me to fuck off, calls me a bitch, and that he hates me and calls the police on me. (Yep. that’s my last in person experience with him)
2015 – Dad Dies (so many layers of guilt, anger, hurt and grief)
2015 – Get fired from job day after dad dies.
2015 – 3 days after returning from Dads memorial, I’m in a terrible car accident. The car is totaled. I’m badly injured. Even though the guy ran into me and there was video footage (that went missing). I’m blamed for it.
2015 – I pretty much lose my will to write. Freelance income disappears.
2015 – For a variety of reasons it doesn’t work out with my roommate. I Move again.
2015 – 2016 – Try to get a wine program going with friends supper club, fail. Go in lots of debt trying to do it and put strain on friendship.
2016 – Struggle living paycheck to paycheck juggling auditioning, background work, driving for Lyft and Uber, cleaning, catering and whatever other odd jobs I can scrounge. Have very little time for anything but working, eating and sleeping.
2016 – Grandfather dies. (more layers of guilt and grief)
2016 – Several friends jump ship.
I feel increasingly neurotic.
Listen it’s not all bad, there’s been some amazing, profound good. I try really hard to focus on it and be grateful.
2009 – my back slowly gets better (as much as herniated discs ever can)… it's a slow haul but I push myself and day by day I’m able to do more and have less pain and avoid surgery. I have amazing care through my naturopath and acupuncturist.
2009 – I get involved with GreenStage and while stage managing isn’t acting at least I’m involved in theatre and make some great, incredible, talented friends.
2009 – My first job back from my injury is pt in an amazing specialty food and wine shop in my favorite neighborhood with amazing people. I learn a ton and have so much fun.
2010 – I start acting again. Start rehearsal on one of my favorite productions today MAAN with one of the best teams ever.
2011 – More acting. I get to play one of my dream roles Madam Arcati in Blythe Spirit and amaze myself by learning it in 4 rehearsals. I make some great friends.
2011 – I have amazing friends who rescue me from my awful living situation and let me live with them.
2011 – I meet and fall in love with my best relationship to date.
2012 – Amazing friend and roommate is livid at my workplace treatment and fights and stands up for me and is supportive of me then being jobless.
2009-2013 – I have the most amazing friends. They are intelligent, talented, supportive, hilarious. We have many adventures.
2012 – I meet and work with some lovely people at a car dealership.
2012 – I go through the Excellence series… its awesome. I meet wonderful people and get good life lessons and skills.
2012- More theatre! I love Second Story Rep and all the opportunities they have given me.
2013 – I move to Montana. My mother is amazing. It’s wonderful to spend time with her.
2013 – I live in and get to know the place of my birth, and my aunts and uncles better.
2014 – Awesome job selling wine, beer and specialty food with great boss and co-workers and fun people in Kalispell and Whitefish.
2014 – Start freelance writing and really enjoy it.
2014 – I get to spend some time with my grandparents.
2013-2015 – I make some amazing friends.
2015 – I move to LA and take the leap.
2015 – I make some lovely friends and acquaintances.
2015 – I start driving for Uber (meh) and Lyft (YAY)… at first (and still sometimes) its terrifying, but I meet nice people from all over the world and explore all over greater LA.
2015- present – I get background work fairly steadily and get all 3 union vouchers in a little over a year.
2015 – I find the Center for Spiritual living which is a lovely community that sadly I don't attend much because I have to work… cause bills.
2015 – I live in a studio on my own for the first time in my life… it’s amazing.
2015-2016 – for a few months I get to be a wine steward. I love the challenge of pairing wine and food and I feel like I’m good at it. Even though I’m insecure about it.
2016- I do my first LA voiceover
2016 – I do my first LA commercial
…. It sort of fell apart completely after my grandfather died last June… it was sort of the hair that broke the camels back. I’ve pretty much been a wreck since then… I mean, I’ve been an increasing mess since the start in 2009, but at least I was holding it together a little…. Sometimes it’s better than others. All of my patriarchy is gone.. within 4 years of each other.
Here’s the thing. I know the list of positives is amazing. It is. I know that. There is so much good to be grateful for. But the bad, it overwhelms me frequently. These are no small things and those good things seem like little flecks of gold in a dark cave of impenetrable rock.
That level of grief and depression is isolating. We, by in large are not a compassionate culture. We are told: "Chin up!" "Smile!" "Put on a happy face!" "Don’t be so negative!" "Quit complaining!" "Think happy thoughts!" "Be grateful!" "You’re not alone!" "I’m thinking of/praying for you!" "Let me know what I can do!" These are all nice thoughts and sayings. I think every depressed person appreciates the sentiment but really it doesn’t quite cut it.
Putting on a Smile and pretending to be ok when you aren’t is one of the biggest problems with mental health in our society. It forces people to deny their feelings and stuff them down, which then in turn causes emotional breakdowns and physical illness. People are afraid to talk about their pain because they don’t want to be perceived as a downer, or a drama queen/king, or broken. Thinking happy thoughts and finding things to be grateful for becomes next to impossible when you are in an extreme state of grief and depression. Even finding 3 things you are grateful for can be hard. The chemicals in the brain become imbalanced in this disease and it’s hard to alter it back without help. Not everyone can afford professional help and drugs. Sometimes you just want to give up.
Unless you physically call, text/ skype/ personally message, or preferably go and spend time with a person in grief/depression odds are they are in fact alone. They are more than likely feel too afraid/unworthy/like a burden to reach out to you their friend. Suicide/mental health hotlines are not always helpful. It’s nice that resource is out there, truly. But, speaking for myself… I can barely talk to my friends about my grief and sadness let alone a complete stranger. Its hard enough for me to believe my friends who know me when they say good things about me I certainly don't believe it when a stranger does. Maybe that's just me. I doubt it. Asking for help or letting people know how they can help is hard because most of the time we have no idea what to ask for. We are so deep in our grief cave that we are lost. We don’t know what we want or need, we just desperately want to feel better, but don’t know how to get there. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer (in whichever faith you choose) and intention and energy… Those are important. But, equally, if not more so, is reaching out. Just a message saying "Hey! Thinking of you! How are you?" Can make a persons day.
We the depressed and grieving need to start being more open and honest about our struggles and be more upfront about asking for help. We need to trust that by asking for help, it will come and not give into that nasty voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t good enough and don’t deserve attention. This is not easy for us, it takes encouragement.
Friends, here’s what really does help a depressed and grieving person. It can be uncomfortable… just be there. Don’t give up. Be persistent.
Do little check ins. Hey, how are you? Are you ok?
Lets have lunch on ____.
Here! I made you a casserole/some soup. I could write a whole separate thing about the wonders of casserole and soup during grief/depression… maybe it's a Midwest thing. I am from Montana. Here I brought a movie and pizza!
If the person is too overwhelmed to talk; or, in too bad of a state (despite your best attempts to cheer them), Please, DON’T take it personally. Odds are they feel even worse about it being too much for them but sometimes the anxiety takes over. Try again. Don’t write them off and if they attempt to apologize for their anxiety accept it. Don’t write their friendship off because that makes them spiral down even more. Keep trying. Hold them while they cry… just hold them. Hug them. Send them pictures of cute baby animals. Or jokes… or whatever you know they like. You don’t have to have an answer to their problems, or try to fix it. You just have to be there.
I was raped twice in 2001/2002… let’s just add that to the list of crazy unfortunate trauma I’ve been through. I isolated myself hard core, pretty much tried to separate myself from everyone and every thing. The weight I have now is largely due to my unconscious need to hide. After all I was told from the time I was a child “No man will ever love you if you’re fat” (that's a whole different story and layer of the grief and depression). I wanted to make myself invisible... Point is. I had a few extremely persistent friends, who absolutely would not let me push them away, or give up on me. They were patient and constant and I am forever grateful. It got me through. That grief and shame is still there (it doesn’t go away.. ever) but you learn to live with it and work with it. 1 in 3 women are survivors of rape and domestic violence. I know I’m not alone in this struggle. Most of us are still largely silent over our struggle, because we are blamed and made to feel guilty for it. Some of it makes for poor choices in what you feel you deserve when you return to the land of dating, if you ever do. Sometimes you are lucky and find someone who helps you heal... I'm still looking.
All these things, that shape you, you try to learn to live with. They change you, forever. You cannot expect it of yourself, and your friends cannot expect it of you, to be that sparkly happy person you were before. You are evolved into something else. True friends go with you and accept and embrace this new you… often even before you yourself do. In fact I’m pretty sure it is their acceptance and love that helps you reach the point of self-acceptance. We can find joy again but it’s a slow journey. Sometimes just as you are getting better something happens and you are back in the cave again. It really helps to have friends on the journey with you, to keep shining the light so you can find your way.
I am grateful for my family and friends near and far who have stuck with me. I'm grateful for the passengers in my car that have comforted me and befriended me. The few random strangers from auditions, set and wandering, have in LA frequently been my heroes. I am learning, slowly, to be better. I'm learning to speak my truth and my pain… even if it’s scary and I feel unworthy, or that no one cares. I am grateful for those friends who do reach out and let me know I’m loved and remind me… and remind me… and remind me. Because I do sadly, need constant reminders. It is a hard, busy, expensive lonely city. There is a level of entitlement, superficiality and pretension here that I’ve not experienced anywhere else. There’s also some glorious things, sometimes I just need some help to see them.
About the Blog
I've been blogging on and off for years. This is my area to explore healing, food, wine, travel and various thoughts on life. My goal: Be True. Be Kind. Heal. Dream. Inspire. Discover. Create.