I don’t brush my teeth every day. I haven’t showered in days. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner was Reese’s peanut butter cups, kit-kat bars and Dove chocolate. Coffee or tea is my drink of choice. I binge watch TV for hours and days on end. My dog no longer brings me joy, instead she is a burden. I can’t get out of bed. I drink too much alcohol. I use drugs.
These are dirty little secrets of depression that are hidden behind a false façade of a happy smiling face. Are you experiencing any of these symptoms?
The first time I remember feeling depressed was when I divorced my husband. I was going through the loss of a marriage, a 20+ year relationship and the breakup of my family. I sought support from a medical doctor who listened and diagnosed me with situational depression. She immediately prescribed medication. I was mortified because she started with drugs when all I really needed was somebody to talk to. Now this diagnosis and the prescribed medication were a permanent record in my medical file. Needless to say, I did not return to that doctor. We did not see eye to eye in my treatment. I sought other methods to help me get past this temporary circumstance.
After leaving the doctor’s office I researched situational depression. Situational depression isn’t a recognized clinical disorder. It is a term that describes the mild depression that occurs as the result of major life changes. Events that can cause it are problems at work, illness, divorce, and death of a loved one. It normally lasts for a relatively short period of time, and it manifests when you have difficulty adjusting to the life event.
There are 3 degrees of depression severity, mild, moderate, and severe. Situational depression usually falls in the mild category with some of the following symptoms:
- Lack of motivation
- Feelings of guilt and despair
- Disinterest in socializing
- Appetite changes
- New or increased use of drugs, alcohol, or addictive behaviors
Many years after my divorce, I experienced a traumatic life event. This time it was the suicide death of my son. Trauma is described as an emotional response to a terrible life event. I must say that the loss of my son to suicide qualifies as a traumatic event.
As I was grieving for my son, I discovered that many signs and symptoms of grief are the same as situational depression from the above list. You can also have the following responses to trauma:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Avoidance of places that remind you of the suicide
- Feeling abandoned, isolated, or powerless
- Confused, foggy, or slowed thinking
- Numbness or mood swings
- Feeling depressed, sad, guilty, angry, frustrated, fearful, or irritable
- Longing to be with the person who has passed
- Lack of purpose
- Lowered self-esteem
- Asking yourself questions such as: “Who am I? Where am I going? Do I really matter?”
My son’s death put me into a tailspin, and I had to figure out how to correct my flight. I was reacting to his death with many of the listed symptoms. I did not like what was happening. I knew that if I did not do something about it, my response to my son’s death could put me over the edge resulting in clinical depression, loss of enjoyment of life or even suicide for myself.
Once a person has lost a loved one to suicide, it is a fact that the survivor’s risk of taking their lives increases dramatically. I knew the sadness and heartache I felt with his death, and it was important that I did not cause my other children to experience the pain and suffering of losing their mother to suicide.
It came down to making a decision. I chose life over death. I wanted to enjoy life and live with purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I still grieve for my son. I miss him to this day and I wish he were here. However, I do not let my grief, his death dictate my happiness and my future.
People ask me what are some ways to support themselves in situational depression and grief? The following list is what I used and use even now to keep me flying in the right direction.
- Exercise daily
- Adhere to a sleep schedule
- Relaxation through yoga or meditation
- Eat food that is rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber
- Reach out to friends
- Take a break from technology
- Have a dance party even if it is a party of one
- Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water
- Sing loud – in the car or shower work really well
- Connect to your higher power and pray
- Journal your thoughts
- Show gratitude for what you have
- Work with a professional – get support from someone who has been through it
These are non-medical treatment solutions. Be aware that grief and situational depression won’t necessarily go away on their own. In fact, when left alone, they can progress to more severe forms impacting your ability to experience peace, joy and happiness.
Remember you do not have to do it alone. Prevent your grief and depression from getting worse. You can do it. I believe in you, helping you move forward. I am available to be that person who listens.
Book your free session here Coaching – The Grief Specialist