In about two weeks will come the date when, two years ago, I started walking. Prior to that I lost interest in reading, writing, TV and film … okay, let’s round that up: I lost interest in my life. I walked in desperation to keep depression at bay while I got over the death of my wife. Yes, I kept depression from crippling me by walking, but I wasn’t achieving much more than a holding action. When I stop walking it comes back, when there are extra stressors in my life it comes back. But is it depression? Is it really? Because I have now been reading about ‘complicated grief.
In psychiatry, complicated grief disorder (CGD) is a proposed disorder for those who are significantly and functionally impaired by prolonged grief symptoms for at least one month after six months of bereavement.
I thought I grieved and grieved enough. However, because of the circumstances of Caroline’s death I spent an awful lot of time suppressing the images, just shoving them out of my mind. I walked and exercised to the point of exhaustion. I cleared the house of items related to her – just retaining some keepsakes in a wardrobe, out of sight. I can hardly bear to look at pictures prior to 2014. Now, in just some brief exchanges with some therapists, I learn that maybe, despite all the crying, I have not processed my grief and it keeps coming back to bite me.
The symptoms are, apparently:
Intense sorrow and pain at the thought of your loved one
Focus on little else but your loved one's death
Extreme focus on reminders of the loved one or excessive avoidance of reminders
Intense and persistent longing or pining for the deceased
Problems accepting the death
Numbness or detachment
Bitterness about your loss
Feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose
Irritability or agitation
Lack of trust in others
Inability to enjoy life or think back on positive experiences with your loved one
A lot of these apply to me. However I don’t get intense sorrow at the thought of Caroline because I have quite effectively shut such thoughts down in my mind. Nor do I focus on the death or have intense longing, for the same reason. I shut it all down, zilch, nada, not going there. So is the reality with me ‘Complicated grief’, that all the stuff I locked away in rooms in my mind is festering? Is it the case that it is not depression as such, but time to house clean my mind?
I’m forever searching for answers. I’ve tried hypnosis, meditation, am learning mindfulness, positive thinking, forced laughter and smiles, processing my positives, positive visualisations … though the one thing I still don’t want to try again is the one provided by our pharmaceutical companies. Despite all this, last week I lost 5 - 6 days to ‘depression’. I was fighting it hard but then it fought back even harder. I crashed, completely. Nothing was any good, nothing would work, everything was shit. My weight dropped by 9lbs, I started smoking again (but with the ecig I am easily stopping again), I spent most of my time sitting in a chair staring into space, feeling like Hell. I started taking Citalopram, but I only took 2. This ‘depression’ came again these last two days. Despite my resolution not to I took a Citalopram – I felt it was my only option.
Time I think to try something else, as well. I’m now booked in for CBT, but that might take some time. I’ve contacted some local therapists and await their response. But I’m also going to try something else. I’m going to make myself remember. And that starts with the photographs you see here.
Wish me luck.