They say grief comes in stages.
After the deaths of my brother, my significant other, and my mother, I can only attest to the fact that it’s just all over the place.
There’s no method to its inevitable destruction and how it wreaks havoc in your life. It’s just messy.
Before anything tragic happened in my life, I always felt like I was a naturally depressed person. I started thinking about my own mortality while other girls my age were content with playing with dolls. I was told I wasn’t guaranteed tomorrow, and I thought about that every single day.
Depression is even harder to explain to people. It can come without a tragedy of any sort, so it’s less forgiven. I’ve actually heard people say that “depression isn’t real” and that it was just a cry for attention.
As grief can come in waves, I feel that depression comes in a form of layers that build up over time. And even when they’re all piled on top of each other, one layer can still peel off to expose a layer that seemed to have been covered up, right when we believed we had tucked it away.
Layer 1: There is extreme anxiety about the future.
I once felt that by waiting for years to pass, it would magically expunge any feelings of loneliness or depression from within me. But it didn’t and it won’t. With it just comes age and eventually an exterior that will maybe show that my wisdom has gotten me this far, but it will end up hiding my emotions even more than I ever forcibly attempted in previous years.
What do I do with the years ahead to make it better?
You can still get lonely even when you aren’t alone. You can’t take away history, the upsets, the failures, the hurt, and the loss through time.
A now-deceased colleague of mine once opened my eyes to what’s ahead. She spoke to me carefully and slowly, all while shaking (she was in her mid-90s). Around her oceanic features was a leathery, wilting enclavement that revealed the years of her physical being.
She looked at me without a blink and said, “You should be so lucky. I can’t cry anymore. I’m crying on the inside, but my tears can no longer come out.”
This led me to believe that these feelings will never go away; we will just be able to hide them more as we age.
Layer 2: Physical helplessness takes its toll.
There have been many days when I could not function. It seemed easier to stay in bed than attack the day, and I often wished that someone was around to help me out of bed. I would cancel meetings or plans with friends because I felt physically helpless. I would feel extreme fatigue no matter how much sleep I got. And I would want to keep sleeping, anyway.
Because of the helplessness, I would eat less and resort to booze in place of an actual meal. This would thicken the layer and make it harder for me to peel it off.
Layer 3: Isolation becomes normal.
Since I would cancel plans due to my mental state, this would lead to isolation. Friends would stop returning my calls as they felt that I was flaky, or I would stop calling them because I could not take on even anything as simple as a conversation.
It’s impossible to expect a depressed person to fight for you when they can barely fight for their own survival. But because depression is not seen with the naked eye, most don’t realize the fight that is going on inside. As a depressed person, I wouldn’t want other people to get involved in my own battles, so isolation would protect them more than it would protect myself.
Layer 4: Questions arise and a sense of self-awareness begins to form.
After months on end of being alone and absorbed in my own thoughts, I would start to question my surroundings and my place in life. Suicide had crossed my mind during this layer at many points, but I often thought that would be the easy way out.
I started to question if I have to be stuck within the confines of my city. Cities, especially New York City, feel so big in comparison to rural areas of the world, but it is just a figment of reality. Its reality lies in that of material goods, false hopes, and assessing which friendships have been accrued based on what you have to offer others. It’s a city that makes it easy for people to ignore you and move on without facing any consequences.
I have to acknowledge how small I have made my world. The dusty, narrow passageway that I could merely pace through, hoping for a sort of sign to manifest itself by “thinking positive” or “hoping for the best.” This is the exact same attitude that would trigger me into a slump I thought was caused by opinionated posts not based on facts, but it was a self-imposed falsity that I could do away with if I expanded my horizons, expanded my mind, and expanded my world.
My world was this minuscule because I allowed it to be. In a time where everyone wants to align themselves with only those who agree with them, we must continue to ask ourselves this question:
How big is my world?
Does my world stop after I closeout at the next bar, because those are the only people who I feel I can relate to? That sense of misery we all carry with us, and how we end up feeling comforted by those who carry the same instead of trying to expand our thoughts, our language, and ourselves?
Does my world stop after I closeout an application on my phone? In fact, is my world that small that I believe that this is the world, these are the opinions of the masses, and this is reality?
Does my world rise with Far Rockaway and end with the Bronx, because the opportunities that a city has had to offer have made me delusional of how many more there are to come, regardless of the surroundings?
Does my world stop every time there is a misconnection? Do I allow the ocean of my covers to drown me once again just because I allowed one more person to chip away at my self-worth?
The world is as big as I allow it to be, and my disappointments will suddenly rise if I keep it too contained.
Layer 5: There’s an adrenaline rush and things start to feel hopeful.
Layers can reveal themselves at any point when dealing with depression. Others can build up in between, as there is no scientific formality to our feelings. Once everything is piled on top of each other and after much self-questioning, I would begin to feel almost manic, like I need to strip everything away and tackle life head-on.
We are walking as quickly or slowly as we allow ourselves, as gravity has nothing to do with the speed of our step. I will no longer step to the pace of the tune that was bestowed upon me, the tune that I chose to affect me instead of turning the dial to something far superior. Something that doesn’t blast through the speakers at parties. Something that no longer gives me a feeling of self-imposed guilt after I turn it on because someone said, “That’s too deep, bro.” Something that allows me to love how deep it is, how peculiar it is, and how much my world has expanded because of it.
Something that will make me say in my elderly years, “I am smiling inside. My lips just don’t move like that anymore.”