My life began unraveling like frayed strands of yarn on the sleeve of a beloved old sweater, when my younger brother died of pancreatic cancer. It would not be clichéd to write that every fiber of my being missed his presence in some form or another; my partner in crime and in some of the greatest adventures and tragedies of my life seems never to be very far from my thoughts. A component to the grieving process for me included not only the usual depression associated with my brother’s passing but an extra layer of something else. In my case, I have dysthymia which is known as persistent depressive disorder and major depression.
Imagine being stuck on a looping grieving track with no apparent exit or off ramp, just endless ruminating laps until I either crash or burnout. This has been my existence for the past 2 years and 6 months, since my brother died. I must preface, everyone grieves in their own way and time. For me, I tended to linger in the stages of grief a little bit longer. I have revisited some of the stages twice; even thrice…anger is good sometimes. I was mad at everyone…the universe for not taking me, too; my brother for leaving; and myself, it’s said that depression is anger turned inward. I am not sure. I don’t know my purpose here on this rock. The only thing that I really know for sure is that I really don’t know anything for sure.
Once persistent depressive disorder/major depression and grief intertwined in my life it became more difficult for me to distinguish between their symptoms and manage the side-effects. Anyone experiencing these symptoms, please be kind to yourself. Mental health professionals have a hard time distinguishing grief from depression symptoms sometimes.
My brother’s death was a catalyst for transformation in my life. A lot of this change has been scary; like a giant push from behind into the deep void of unknown where one’s darkest fears resides. Then there is the other more subtle change at least by all outer appearances; but in reality this type of change is where true metamorphosis occurs, at least it did for me. The new me, or the person that I need to be in this moment, was in conflict with the old me; the Big Sister, the Protector who once had a purpose but was no longer needed in the same capacity as I had been in the past. The age old question of who am I? This particular existential question sent me spiraling into the deepest depression I have ever known but I was able to come out on the other side of it; I believe, much stronger.
All of the love, protection, and self-worth that I had heaped upon my little brother, I must now garner for myself, even if it’s a small fraction of that adoration… this should by no means be considered a selfish act but in fact by all accounts an altruistic act because it demonstrates an inner kindness for self that may allow one to have the greater possibilities of returning the same kind of love back into the world. So, this is my goal for the New Year—a little early with my New Years’ Resolution but that’s okay. I have been enveloped in grieving and feelings of unworthiness for quite some time now so, I say enough. I know my brother would agree.
My friend, grief is no joke. I am amazed and blessed to be here with you; I look forward to sharing and learning with you in the future! I am excited to see what 2018 holds….