My journey with depression started 2 weeks before my grandma passed away. Or maybe earlier, I’m not too sure but I’m most aware of the last 6 weeks. When it was happening, I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was not 100%, nor was I unwell. I just felt off but I didn’t know what it was. I may have been picking up on how my grandma may have been feeling before she passed away as I have felt her spirit since her passing in more ways than one.
On the morning of my grandma’s death, I had woken to go to the bathroom – this happens frequently during the night but what made it odd was that I had to do a bowel movement. This is not usually the case and it was very difficult but nothing much happened. I went back to bed and my mobile rang and it was on low volume so it took me a while to figure out it was my mobile. The call went to my voicemail. I think the call was at about 1.30am. Before I even checked my voicemail, I knew it was about my grandma’s passing. I can’t explain how, but I knew. I listened to the message, it was from the hospital saying she had passed away at 12.10am. I woke my husband and told him and asked whether I should call my mum, I wasn’t thinking, I was numb. He advised I should let her sleep and call her at a decent hour later in the morning. I did not go back to sleep that night.
My phone rang at 4.00am and I knew it was my mum calling to inform me about grandma, I was numb. My mum was distraught and I went into protective mode – of myself and my mum. I went into autopilot and starting doing what the eldest daughter needs to do at that time. It was hard seeing my mum’s grief, I was holding myself together the best way I could. I had to help my mum go to the cemetery, organise and purchase a plot, go with her to the funeral home and organise the funeral, flowers, hymns, readings, pall bearers, readings, pictures and slideshow along with the viewing and wake which ended up at our house. There was much to keep me busy, I went into auto-pilot and reminded my mum to eat, drink, rest and sleep. In the process, I was neglecting to do these things myself. I lost my appetite, was sleeping around only 4 hours each night and just kept going with everything that had to be done.
To make matters more hectic, I had my sister from Perth coming to stay from the night before the viewing until the Funeral, 3 days later. Every day since the phone call, I had every sibling, mum and other family members over at our place for 2 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least. My younger siblings tend to drain my energy so I was conserving what little energy I had to get through this difficult time and trying to shut out the ‘noise’ from my sisters. I was trying to hold in my grief and not express it but when I read my remembrance at the funeral service, I broke down and you could hardly understand what I was saying about my grandma. I had to recover and do a reading later on which I was able to read more coherently.
I had no energy to tell anyone of my grandma’s passing except three good friends – one who I’ve known for 40 years, another for over 20 years and another whom she and I have a different spiritual connection. We can’t explain it but it is there. I did write a post about it to express some of my grief and emotion as I find writing helps me process thoughts and feelings. It helped to an extent. I felt at peace when we laid my grandma to rest because I knew she was in a better place and no longer suffering. I felt she could finally spread her wings and fly. When everyone left our place after the wake, I finally had some peace. Saturday was devoted to cleaning up and taking my daughter to ballet. I felt somewhat better.
Sunday, I took my mum to watch the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” to bring some laughter back into our lives, even though there were some tender moments that also brought some tears. It was just my little family around me on Monday which was nice and brought some peace. The next day, I was going back to work. I thought getting back into routine would help – it turned out I was very wrong about that. As I am also a Life Coach, I provide Management Coaching at work. I love the coaching experience but it does take a lot of my energy. Something I didn’t have much of at the time.
I remember surviving through each day with very little sleep, I was making myself eat even though I had no appetite. I couldn’t afford to get sick. After being at work for 1.5 weeks, I received a work email and was also receiving coaching myself – yes coaches need to be coached too! Both the work email and coaching made me realise I was breaking down and not coping – it was costing me my inner peace which is too high a price to pay. I realised I needed to ask for time off work to grieve. I had been holding it in for far too long.
The weekend before my week’s leave, I had a Holy Communion to attend which was giving me anxiety. I experienced the worst anxiety I had ever felt. I was up early in the morning going to the toilet several times, not able to eat breakfast and not wanting to socialise as I knew there would be other people I knew at the service. I was using all my energy to get dressed and out the door. As I walked into the church, a friend saw me who I had not seen for some time, looked at me she asked “Are you OK?”, I manged to reply “I’m ok, Just Ok.” She let me have my space as I went to find my other ‘friend’. When I found her, she did not ask how I was, did not check if I was OK. She laughed and smiled and chatted. Every sound was too loud, laughter was an assault to my senses and smiling was painful.
I used all my energy to get through the mass and held back tears. During the mass a friend sat next to me who always gives out positive energy. I think that helped me half way through the mass. It was so difficult during mass as there was an elderly man in a wheel chair with his loving daughter which reminded me of my mum with her mother when she was still alive. When I turned behind me to shake hands to say ‘Peace be with you’ there was a lovely elderly lady wearing a hat which reminded me of my grandma. It was tough. When the mass was over, I could only manage to see the girl who was having Holy Communion to say “God is in your heart”. I was almost at breaking point, I was trembling with the effort of keeping my composure for that long. Her daughter has anxiety and I could see how strained she was on that day as well. We bid our goodbyes and went home. It was tough but I survived!
The next day I went to my family doctor because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew something was out of balance but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I felt like I was in a fog and couldn’t get out. I burst into tears when I explained what I was feeling, what I was doing or not doing and he diagnosed me with depression. It was both a relief to know what was wrong and also filled me with dread to tell the news to my family. My doctor prescribed me antidepressants so I could sleep because the chronic lack of sleep was contributing to my depression.
I had a good night’s sleep for the first time in 3 weeks. I had the week to recover and time to grieve. I scheduled a few activities I wanted to do on my own and also visited my Grandma’s grave on the one month anniversary of her death. I had anxiety that morning too but I was determined to go. I bought hot pink and white roses and drove to the cemetery. I grabbed a flower holder that is provided by the cemetery, put some water in it and placed the flowers in the holder. I walked to my grandma’s grave and placed the flowers at the top of her grave. I took off my shoes, sat on the grass and grieved, wept, spoke to her in Vietnamese and at times sat in silence. I felt such a release and my heart was finally lighter. I finally felt like the fog was lifting. I thanked my grandma, said goodbye and left.
I finally felt like I was on the road to recovery. I hope my story helps others who may be experiencing anxiety and depression or helps others pick up warning signs from friends, family or loved ones who may be experiencing anxiety and depression. This week, I finally took my own advice to take some ‘me’ time to look after myself so I can then look after others. I also put into action something I posted on my Instagram Coaching page:
I let go of energy, habits, behaviour and people that didn’t serve me. I was taking back my power – something I coach others to do and it was good to finally take my own advice!
Someone once showed me this quote by Buddha:
The Buddhist way of life resonates with me and I found this saying to be fulfilled during this week. I am going to borrow another saying by Buddha when he was teaching about the Not Self “This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself.” but insert the word ‘depression’ into it – “Depression is not mine, Depression I am not. Depression is not myself.” This has been a tough week but a journey I had to have. I feel I am stronger because of this and enables me to be a better coach to enable others to Laugh.Love.Live! Peace and blessings – Namaste!