On People From The Past

Dear Daniel,

There are three categories of people: those who were only part of my life when you were alive, those who are only part of my life after you died, and those who have been part of my life through both.

Sometimes I want to see people from the past, to feel like I can go back to that time in my life when you were still here. People who knew you, people who knew me and how I was back then before you died.

And then sometimes I want to avoid people from the past. People who don’t know what happened to you, people who don’t know who I am now.

So, I end up keeping the past in the past.

On Being the Only One Left

Dear Daniel,

I remember talking to my therapist about how I was worried about being the only one left in our family. She remarked that people don’t think usually think about these things until they’re much older. When Mom & Dad pass away, I’ll be the only one left. You won’t be there to go through it with me, we won’t have each other, we won’t grow old together. Our family will just be… gone. I wish you were still here.

Why do I feel bad right now? A checklist of questions I go through.

Did I get enough sleep?

Have I been exercising enough?

Are my muscles tight or tense?

Have I been pushing myself too hard?

Do I need rest?

Am I anxious?

Am I depressed?

Do I need to eat more food?

Is it that time of the month?

Is it allergies?

Am I sick?

Is it just a headache?

Is something stressful coming up?

Am I not dealing with my grief and just missing you?

…is there no reason at all?

On Resetting

Dear Daniel,

The first half of this year has been tough. The more stress I felt from work, the more my anxiety and depression grew, and the less I took care of myself. I felt like my life was deteriorating more and more with each passing month.

But, I believe in changing bad situations. When something isn’t working, do something different.

So, for the past month, I’ve been resetting. Working out again, eating healthy, focusing on gratitude, setting boundaries, and working on a new plan. It took a couple weeks before I felt the effects, but what a difference it makes. I’m not there yet, but I’m feeling much better.

Depression & Anxiety Never Truly Go Away

Dear Daniel,

For some reason, I held the belief that if I worked hard enough, I could get my anxiety & depression to go away. That it was temporary and I could one day be free of it. I asked my therapist yesterday if it ever goes away and she said there’s no “cure”, you just get better at coping with it.

And it’s true – I’ve had fewer panic attacks, less depressive funks, and the bad feelings aren’t constant. It was just a bummer to hear. I never really thought of depression or anxiety as a permanent illness.

 

Progress Is Not Linear

Dear Daniel,

One thing I try to remember is that progress is not linear. I get very frustrated when it feels like I’m going backward on the progress I’ve made. It also scares me a little. How far back will I go? What if I never move forward again? But every time I feel knocked down, I eventually pick myself up again and keep going. I still feel like a part of me is missing without you here.

But I keep going.

Year 7

Dear Daniel,

I can’t believe it has been almost 7 years. This year I did a lot of therapy work which was emotionally draining, but I think it’s paying off. I still have anxiety, but I can feel progress. Thanksgiving was the first holiday since you passed that I was able to spend with family (not ours, but still) and not feel anxious and have a good time. I still feel grief and sadness but the sharp physical pains and downward spirals are mostly gone. Thinking back on past memories still make me really sad, so maybe that’s what I’ll tackle next year. I love you and wish you were still here.

One Year of Therapy

Dear Daniel,

It’s been a little over a year (and my first time going through the holidays) since I started EMDR therapy. Overall, my anxiety has dropped and I am more self-aware and better at coping when I feel anxious. I had a couple of mini panic attacks at the beginning of November, but I was able to spend 4 hours with my husband’s family for Thanksgiving without feeling sad or anxious. I still feel depressed around your birthday, but I don’t have the sharp pains in my chest I used to get. And I think one of the best things it has done is strengthen my relationship with my husband.

It wasn’t easy in the beginning – dealing with anxiety, him not understanding, both of us low on patience, and me feeling like I was battling on my own. Now I feel like I’m not in it alone and that I have a partner going to battle with me. That we’ve grown together. Being able to talk to him about my sessions and watching him listen and grow more compassionate and turn into my greatest supporter has meant more than I can say.

Sometimes I wonder if you would still be here if you had tried therapy or talked to more of us about your pain. I know you only left because you felt you had no hope. I love you and still miss you so much.

Commenting on Suicide on Social Media

Dear Daniel,

It’s been a long time since I’ve commented on suicide on social media when suicide is in the news. Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m very conscious of any message I put out there and I’m not sure how to approach it because I have conflicting thoughts and feelings.

Many people share things like the suicide hotline and encourage others to reach out if they need help. Depression (at least in my experience) doesn’t make me want to reach out to anyone, even if I know I have support. And I don’t think a blanket broadcast to your whole network saying “you can reach out to me” is impactful with something so personal. I think some of the intentions are good, and also realize that I am just one person with one set of beliefs. Maybe someone would reach out or actually call the hotline.

Others are saying that it’s on us to reach out if we see someone struggling or notice they’ve disappeared or any other signs. I agree that we should reach out if we see anything, but I think the message of “it’s up to us to reach out” is dangerous because it could be interpreted as us being responsible for others’ lives and choices. Maybe we all are to some degree. But as a survivor who’s had to work through all kinds of guilt and unhealthy grieving, it hits me wrong.

I’ve thought about sharing this blog, but I don’t want it to be like I’m making it about me. I’ve wanted to be part of the conversation but it’s either been too painful or I don’t know/am worried about what to say. Even though I take issue with some of the things people post, I am glad that people are talking more about mental health. I hope the more we as a society talk about it, the less stigma there will be around mental illness and getting help for it.

I think ultimately I haven’t said anything because I’m just not ready. So for now, I’ll continue to just share my thoughts here and in-person with my close friends. I love and miss you.

 

 

On Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain

Dear Daniel,

Not since Robin Williams have I seen so many people talk about suicide this week. It’s surreal and sad. Many of my friends and family know I love Kate Spade’s brand and I worried whether or not someone would bring it up to me – not intending to cause me pain or make me uncomfortable but just to connect with me. And I thought of all the times my husband used to pull up Anthony Bourdain’s show before our trips, and how I almost bought tickets to his show as a gift but thought they were just too expensive for us at the time…

It’s also scary to think that KateĀ was getting help – on medication, seeing doctors – and her mental illness still won in the end. And I remember after you died learning that after a suicide there could be more shortly after and wondered if Kate Spade affected Anthony Bourdain and if they affected even more people, given their level of fame. Not blaming of course – just thinking about how people don’t realize the impact they make on others or at least don’t realize or minimize it when they’re in a deep state of depression. I get it. When you’re in that much pain, it’s hard to think about anything else other than being free of it.

Things like this remind me that you were in that much pain. I know you loved us all very much. We all love you. I just wish there was more you and we could’ve done to help you get better. Miss you always.