Facing My Father’s Death and My Fear of Depression
Depression blogger Adrienne Santos-Longhurst writes about her experience with depression, both before and after the death of her father.
By the time my father was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, I had been “better” from my depression for a few years. By better I mean that I liked to believe I was cured, like it was just a dark little blip in my life that I took care of and it went away. Done. Finished. Finito.
When he first got sick and we didn’t know what was wrong other than that it looked pretty serious, I was scared and upset but managed to busy myself at my new job and put on a brave and happy front that I even had me somewhat fooled. When we were told it was a brain tumor, I busied myself some more, this time trying to find information on the internet that could help make him better. It was when my mother blurted out that he was going to die—a confession that was forced out of her by my (false) optimism that he would be fine—that things got scary. Not only did I have to come to terms with losing my father and having the lives of our entire close-knit family change forever, but it was also the first time in a few years that I found myself worried that the depression was going to come back…as if it was ever really completely gone.
When busying myself became impossible because I was consumed with fear of what was happening, I began to feel helpless and acutely aware that I couldn’t control my feelings. My usual inflated optimism was no match for the feelings that were consuming me and try as I did to just make myself feel better, I couldn’t. I had no control over how I was feeling and couldn’t control how sad/scared/angry/freaked out/helpless the situation was making me feel. And it was precisely that which I hated most about my bout with depression and the aspect of depression that I feared most. I couldn’t control how I felt when I was clinically depressed and worried that this was the beginning of another year or more of feeling like nothing mattered and like a shell of my true self. It scared the bejesus outta’ me.
Only one other person knows just how scared I was of depression because she’s the one who drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night where I was taken to the “quiet room” and sat sobbing for an hour to a doctor about how scared I was that I was losing control and falling into that same kind of depression that feels like a bottomless pit that you try desperately to fight your way out of only to not be able to see the way out. Until now, I never told anyone about that night because I didn’t want to burden them when what my father was going through and what everyone in my family was dealing with was already so hard.
The doctor assured me that I seemed of very sound mind, in control and too aware of what I was feeling to do anything drastic or “lose all control”. He patted me on the back as he told me that what I was feeling was completely normal given the circumstances and proceeded to prescribe me a sedative, which I didn’t take, and send me on my way with a pamphlet about grief.
I went home and cried myself to sleep and when I woke up I realized for the first time that I was not actually “cured” of my depression. I had to accept that it was going to be a part of me forever to some degree whether I liked it or not. To what degree was yet to be seen.
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