This is for those of us who are dealing with grief, losses of any kind, depression, physical or mental illness or any difficult life situation. Climbing out of a deep valley of despair is treacherous at best and setbacks are to be expected.
The slippery slope of recovery is difficult to tackle, even to those motivated enough to push ahead, which is often not the case for the depressed or grieving that impacts energy levels.
Even when we have managed to find ourselves uplifted sometimes to a better day or higher plateau of functioning, then fall back down again into a deep crevice, the climb back up can seem hopeless and futile.
Though self help books and blog posts may offer helpful hints, when you are the depths of despair, some can be overwhelming, especially those with “how to” steps.
Even worse, these well-intentioned articles written with the best intent to help can often make us feel even less than. Why?
Simply because they can easily induce a sense of guilt for not being able to accomplish whatever helpful advice, steps, and guidelines offered.
Sometimes even getting started seems impossible, not because we do not want do, but the task seems overwhelming.
Most energy expended goes towards taking care of the very basics of day to day living or trying to. Grieving and depression can rob you of psychic energy needed and the capacity to help yourself.
These unfortunate consequences only serve to make us feel even more incapable and helpless. I have seen this sense of failure in patients, worried about how family and friends perceive their recovery.
The most wonderful guidelines ever written can be read, but when you do not have the energy or the will to implement, it may not be enough to push you to action. Not because you are lazy or unmotivated!
Simply because whatever has plunged you into such despair, can impede you from even being able to start to dig yourself out of the valley.
Most of the times the hopelessness rapes us of even caring about feeling better. It has nothing do with will or intent!
It can be easy for others to quickly denounce those who are wallowing in their sadness or misfortune as having a “pity party”.
There seems to be less sensitivity and empathy towards those with mental health issues, mainly because you can’t see the brokenness that resides within.
There aren’t any plaster casts, no visible crutches, nor bandages wrapped around a poor brain ravaged by depression, anxiety, grief and fears to elicit sympathy or empathy.
Americans have been taught from childhood to get back on the horse and keep riding in the saddle like a tough cowboy, who fearlessly denies his pain.
Saving face for the sake of appearances might please others enough to bring praise, but to what expense to the “cowboy” who is barely hanging on?
As a therapist, I have witnessed the tortured despair of many, who are trying to maintain an outward image of recovery, when they are secretly only barely skimming the surface of survival.
As I write, millions of human beings all over this planet are sufferings losses, struggles, discriminations, along with many of injustices that you and I have never encountered; such as warfare or famine in our own backyards.
I for one, know that I am not at all alone in any suffering that I may have, because at any given time, there are millions of fellow human beings who are suffering more intensely for multiple losses.
We might certainly be helped in reading about how other dealt with grief and losses in their life. However helpful that might be, we are really on our own when it comes to walking that highway ourselves.
We are all different and what might be helpful for some one, might not for someone else. It comes to picking and choosing helpful advice, given our own personalities and tendencies.
The bottom line, is that there aren’t any cookie cutter recipes to expedite someone out of their grief or losses.
What is working for me, may not be helpful to someone else. Time may be the greatest healer of all, but in the meanwhile, having realistic expectations about functioning needs acceptance.
Expecting that we should be able to perform as well as before, despite our losses and the ensuing despair is unrealistic and cruel.
For those of us in the valley of losses , despair and depression, we have to develop and most important ACCEPT a new norm for ourselves.
We are not machines, but human beings of flesh and blood, who are not programmed with software, but with the vicissitudes of the soul and heart.
Developing realistic expectations of ourselves in dealing with losses, grief, depression and any strife that life throws our way has to be adopted now!
Don’t listen to what others think You should be doing! Instead listen to your own body who is doing the best it can, given the steep climb towards healing.
You are not going to get where you want to go, at the speed you previously use to do. Why?
You may not see your “brokenness”, nor even feel right away any particular weakness of limb or body, but your physical being is definitely impacted by your grief and loss.
Pushing yourself sometimes is necessary I know, as I often have to do it myself, but I am not a machine. That means I am not able to go the same RPM”s each day.
Just because I was able to do this and that one day, does not mean that every day forward will be the same or better.
It just does not work that way. I often tell patients who are starting on antidepressants, that their recovery will NOT be like a jet plane taking off.
The same holds true for those in grief and loss.
That means you will not climb each day successively higher into the healing clouds of no returns to your previous level.
Each day towards healing looks like an up and down procedure on a graph line, because that is how a human being gets better.
The setbacks are very difficult to deal with, because when you are already hopeless, it can often make you feel that you are sinking even deeper.
I always said to my patients that these setbacks are normal and part and parcel of the healing process and though awful to live through, they will subside and go away to another better day.
Acceptance is the key right now! Accepting that your physical functioning has its limits, even though you think you can push them beyond.
Like overworking your muscles in the gym, you may be able to do so much repetitions, but tomorrow you will pay for it with soreness.
You can certainly congratulate yourself for taking on more than usual, but don’t be surprised if your energy falls the next day.
Afterall, you are probably borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, insofar as energy expenditures.
Setbacks are inevitable in the healing process, but that does not constitute failure. It doesn’t mean whatever progress you have obtained has been derailed, but is just being readjusted.
Learning to have empathy for yourself is paramount. Allowing yourself to have enough slack to retreat is essential.
Pushing and shoving yourself towards a quicker recovery may backfire, if you do not have the needed recovery time to maintain it.
There is no competition to heal. No one is going to give you any awards or medals for your spectacular recovery.
The best you can do is accept wherever you are is only temporary. Time is really on your side.
Learning to float to conserve energy may be needed at times. Inertia is never what it seems, in that not seemingly going anywhere is really a conservation or stockpiling of needed energy to tackle the next step.
I like to use the analogy of a tropical storm hovering over the warm oceans, seemingly stationary till it has absorbed enough energy to take off on its path.
Baby steps are the goal, not giant strides and leaps. Tuning your inner self towards gratitude is good medicine for those wobbly steps towards recovery.
Being kind towards your needs is more called for rather than enlisting a tough coach approach, prodding and challenging yourself for more each day.
Drench yourself in kindness, as you would hope others would do for you. You are making progress in increments maybe too tiny to see, but you will get there in your own time and in your own way.
As for myself, even if I fall back in a deep slump, and can’t seem to muster up enough energy to make it outside or do something I need to do, I can at least pray for the needs of others and be grateful for my blessings.
Prayers and gratitude are great inner tubes in keeping me afloat for another day. There is always tomorrow!