Grieving is different when you’re manic and when you’re depressed.
My 35-year best buddy Monty died a week ago today. (https://rlcol.com/2015/01/12/my-best-buddy-monty/) I was manic for three days before he died, then the last seven – until today. For the last week I knew I was in pain, knew I was messed up – but I felt good. It was confusing. My friend Marlisa wrote, “Friendship of a lifetime, loss of a lifetime. Take good care of your grief.” I grabbed hold of those words and repeated them to almost every person who asked how I was doing. I also repeated, “I’m manic now – when I’m depressed and he’s still gone it’s going to be different.”
I’m seeing the ways that grief is like depression. Depression is so much about loss – loss of momentum, loss of happiness, loss of connection with others, loss of hope. When I am depressed, everything looks ugly and chaotic. “This is bullshit.” When I am grieving, it seems like nothing matters. No matter what you do, everyone dies – so nothing matters. Even when that person was 86 years old and apparently ready to go, this nihilism can still kick in. When I am depressed, I blame myself – I ruminate over what I have and haven’t done. When I am grieving, I run over in my brain what I should or shouldn’t have done differently.
At work today, in the middle of my grief and depression – reaching for something to keep me afloat – I grabbed on to my stock question to ask customers: “What’s been a highlight of your day?” That can do a good job of getting my mind off of myself, but a lot of my customers also then ask me what has been the highlight of my day. What do I say then?
For lack of any better answer, I used the one I have been saying most often anyway: this blog. At first it felt and sounded pretty lame, but as I experimented with ways to get behind it, it started to work for me -at least some of the time, at least a little – on three levels.
- I’m still creating. Even today – miserable with grief and depression – I’m getting ideas for blog posts, I’m kind of frantically jotting down notes during my breaks and even at the cash register. Many of them will make no sense to me when I go back to them, but I’m writing. (Tonight, after work – now 9:01 p.m. – so much of me wants to just crawl into bed, but it feels desperately important to get this written and scheduled to post tomorrow morning. I’ve got to create.)
- My writing is reaching people. A lot of people are reading the blog. A lot of people tell me that it means something to them. They say it in comments on the blog, in emails to me, and face-to-face. They say it strongly, eloquently – it breaks through my isolation. I have copy and pasted a lot of it into a “Rainy day” file. I have recorded some of it to listen to.
- I’m offering it to you. I step beyond my shyness and embarrassment, I push past the depression and grief – all of which would keep me isolated and cut off from you (you my customer and you my reader). I tell you about my blog. I say that it’s good. I takethislittleVistaprint business card and give it to you.
Monty isn’t here. Myself as I like to know myself – the person with so much pizzazz – isn’t here. You are here. In this moment, grieving and depressed, I meet you. I look you in the eye. I let myself care for you. I want good for you. I don’t just meet you – I offer you something, a piece of me. I offer you this card and say, “Check this out – I think you will enjoy it.” Monty was all about “putting his stuff out in the world” – it was a healthy obsession with him. He also felt that in my battle with depression, too often I let depression win. I think that in this moment Monty would be proud.