I wanted to write a piece about sadness and depression and how they both ring heavy and true but are in fact, quite different.
As you know if you read my article on depression that I wrote in the summer, depression is something that I’ve known all too well in my life.
And sadness… sadness is something we all know. So in the spirit of giving truth and reality to these common human situations, I wrote about sadness and depression the best way that I know how: through my own experiences. My hope is that it helps you differentiate between the two if you ever find yourself at a crossroads of determining which you or someone you love is experiencing. They both matter.
As I said, I’ve experienced depression many times before.
Today, it’s been 8 days since my dog Lacy passed away. And I know what I am experiencing is sadness and not depression. Here is something I wrote the day after she passed… and how I knew even then that it was to be sadness and not depression.
December 27th, 2016.
It’s been 27 hours since my dog Lacy passed away. My best friend, my number one sidekick… the biggest and most consistent JOY of my life so far… oh my God.The pain that’s in my heart is so rampant it’s paralyzing.
A scary part of having a pet that no one talks about is knowing they’re likely to die sooner than you. And if you fall in love with them- that death is going to be hard. Really, really, REALLY hard.
Dogs are angels and for me, it was such an honor to have had the experience of having a dog BFF at least once in my life. Fourteen incredible years with her. How beautiful the relationship of human and dog is. I know I’ll experience it again one day. But in this moment, the grief of saying goodbye to that weighs heavy. She is something that I’m going to miss for the rest of my life.
I’m going to need to get over this. And I know I’m going to get over this.
But… right now. Everything in me hurts. Nothing is bringing me joy because I miss her so much that it’s the only thing I can think about. I try to distract myself but I just end up crying again. My emails pile up. Unanswered texts. Barely getting out of bed, just been eating pretzels and cheeze-its (gotta keep it real here.) I get up to brush my teeth and refill my water and do all the mundane but other than that I’ve just been laying in my bed. Trying to sleep. Listening to sad ass music because I’m so devastated that the only genuine thing I can do right now is be emotional.
January 3rd, 2017
Okay, present time. So it’s now been 8 days since Lacy passed. I actually revisited what I wrote above for the first time since I wrote it and let me tell you how I spent my week.
I did find pockets of happiness and smiling. Like when my Dad, Zee Bull, (IG friends know who I’m talking about) brought me back to the city and we spent a good portion of the day together. I smiled and laughed catching up with one of my roommates. And visiting with Radhika and her friends for a brief moment on New Years day.
BUT. That was few and far in-between. Most of my week was spent crying.
LOTS OF CRYING. Sooooooooooooooo much crying. Moping around. Lots of torturing myself looking back at pictures and videos of her. Lots of texting friends and dramatically calling my Mom with the starting line, “I miss her so much.”
Lots of sleeping- because crying is, in fact, quite exhausting. My eyes have been puffy and red. My face splotchy. My hair a mess. My wardrobe sweatpants and a sweatshirt 95% of the time.
And today, 8 days later… I feel lighter because of having grieved so hard. I still miss my dog, and I’m still fragile to even talk about her at the fear of tearing up, but I feel that I flushed a lot of the sadness out and now I can start to move on with things. I am getting closer to looking back at memories and smiling instead of crying.
And that is, I think, in my own experience…. what separates sadness from depression.
I think of sadness as more temporary. But in the moment, it is inescapable. It must be dealt with now. Happiness cannot be faked when buried in sadness: what you are feeling will show up on your face, in your voice, in your entire demeanor. True sadness is almost a moment of emotional emergency, when you need to cater to your own needs and be incredibly selfish until the worst of it passes. Want to eat shitty food? Do it. Want to sleep and not answer your phone? Do it. Sadness warrants this.
And once sadness is felt to it’s core (aka you are actually dealing with it), you sit with it for some time, purge yourself, and emerge feeling ready to get a move on. All these steps are not dramatic, but necessary. BE SAD when you need to be. To then move on.
Depression is a slow, heavy drag. Situational or out of the blue (I’m familiar with both), it is a blanket of sadness, anxiety, self-hatred, and regret rolled into one. Sometimes others see it, sometimes they don’t.
As I had wrote about before, depression can be hidden. In general, nearly everyone in my life, even those who know about my past with depression, would say that I am one of the happiest people they know. That I am always laughing and always positive. And it’s actually not hard for me to be that way- even when I am going through it. Depression is an anchor that pulls you down and keeps you down until you are released, you gotta wait it out… but you can still find air at the surface to do what you gotta do for the people in your life.
I remember when my Grandma passed away two years ago. I had three days to grieve HARD (sadness) before I had to actually go to my friend’s wedding. Now my Grandma’s death impacted me in a way that I actually lost a sense of self for awhile. The anxiety that came from knowing I would never see her again (on earth) honest-to-goodness crippled me mentally for some time. She was a best friend to me, someone who related to me in ways that no one else in my life had before (she too was once very familiar with depression), and was just someone I went to for advice and inspiration. I loved her so much.
I know myself, and I knew… with her, this was going to be more than sadness. And when I accepted that, also knowing that depression isn’t forever and I would have to fight it, I knew that I’d have my time to grieve but it would be prolonged.
And three days after her death, I showed up to my friend’s wedding- smiling, dancing, laughing- taking in the moment and feeling SO happy for her… and after that weekend I went home and sank into my rut that lasted 6 weeks. That’s depression.
This year, from June to almost November, I experienced what was probably the longest and biggest depression bout of my entire life. I don’t want to repeat myself, because I wrote about this already, but within a span of one week in June: I got word that one of my family members was so sick they might not make it, that my dog’s cancer was progressing at a rate that she only had maybe a few weeks left, my original business partner and I had went separate ways (on a respectable but very difficult split), and I was SUPER fresh off a breakup with someone who I had really, really cared about.
It was one of life’s perfect storms and I had to leave San Francisco to be home to care for my family and my dog (who both needed around the clock care) and suddenly my life was not about me, but them. And you know… I am happy I am that kind of selfless woman- who doesn’t just say she is about family and friends and love, but IS… and DOES…. and whose actions speak for that. But none the less, it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I had many broken moments.
My family member’s illness was tragic, to say the least. (All is well now, by true miracle.) But for months, I made more trips to the emergency room than I did to the grocery store. The emotional turmoil we endured as a family and the things we witnessed are something that make me wonder if one day I’ll need therapy for– there are moments that are so burned into my mind that I can’t always escape. My dog’s cancer was a roller coaster, getting better and getting worse. Nearly unable to leave her side for long at all. She was also my saving grace during this, and knowing that I could lose her at any moment gave me anxiety that sat on my chest like a 20 pound weight. We both needed each other.
Outside family and friends and God (always my number one), the love of my life is The Violet Fog. Splitting from my business partner was the right thing to do for both of us, but it left me feeling unconfident at first. Not knowing if I was able to pick up the slack that stemmed from her absence, wondering if Radhika and Sandra (VF senior writers) would even still want to stay with me and VF in general now that she was gone… (Thank you LORD- they did, they are dedicated as ever to VF’s message #BrainIsTheNewAss #NiceGirlsClub)… anyway, a lot of anxiety came from that period. My former business partner was a VERY talented girl, superb at networking, and brought a lot to the table. Everything tumbled down quite literally DAYS after our split was official. Had I predicted what life circumstances were about to unfold, I probably would have pushed back our disunion. But, such is life.
Not to mention going THROUGH A BREAKUP. Which hurts no matter which way you look at it. Especially if the person meant something to you. Which this guy did (and he is truly such an awesome guy. An easy guy to miss.)
So over this period of time? I lost hair. I couldn’t sleep. I had zero emotional space to care for myself. I woke up everyday looking in the mirror feeling like a failure because I was being crushed under this weight and not handling it in a stronger way. And I went to bed every night begging, begging God to please take this pain away from me and my family. I did not know how long I could bear it. I could not believe this had become my life. And yet, I endured.
And during that four month period, when I was rarely able to get a break from that, I had a few wine nights with some girlfriends. (yes, just a FEW in a span of 6 months.) Even went glamping over my birthday with my best friend Kerrie. (<— Most therapeutic road trip ever) And you know what? During those times I did not cry, did not vent (much), but instead found moments of happiness and laughter from their company. Moments of escapism that meant so much to me. That is depression.
Often people think those who are depressed or have gone through depression are weak. But I argue that they can be strong. Because they can’t escape depression until it’s ran it’s course but they can (often) still rally for the people they love. They can still show up. And in them, should they not give up, is this conviction that the storm is there but hang on because it’s going to pass. And oddly, you’ll emerge as a better person than before it started looming.
In the spirit of always keeping my writing honest (and no I am not getting preachy), I do believe that God has a plan for me. And that is what I clung to desperately and what got me through. Today, I’m so freaking happy! Everything that happened even then was supposed to happen to bring to the moment where I am now. Which is a moment where I feel full of hope, alive, grateful, healthy… and ready to ROCK y’all. 😛 That’s the truth.
So… this was merely a story of human experience I wanted to share with you guys because I know many of you can relate on some level. And perhaps writing things like this is part of my purpose. To relate to people on a very vulnerable level that many of us don’t feel comfortable opening up about, even to our closest friends. Knowing you’re not alone is important. Truth be told, I actually have a hard time expressing some of these things verbally in person. Which is probably why I write. I’m an introvert… I have things to get off my chest. And authenticity to myself has always been vital to my wellbeing.
So if you are sad, or know someone who is sad… truly sad. Feel it. Give in to it. (Let them feel it, let them give into it.) And then move on when you can. Do they want you to call them and check in? Do they want to be alone? (Me? Don’t call me. Don’t show up. A text is enough.) Everyone is different.
If you are depressed, I understand that going to God is something not everyone is align with. So while he has been my biggest savior (again- keeping it honest with you guys out of respect to myself and you) I would say that there are other things that helped me get through, which I will link below. They stem from relating to other people, to additions to my diet, to new habits I adopted into my life. I hope that you find steady happiness again, and I know that you can.
As always- you have a friend in me and can rest assured that this is a topic I will continue to revisit because it’s an important one.
A few NATURAL things, that I could do on my own, that helped me with depression:
Camu camu as well. (Highest vitamin C of any food on the planet, which helps with depression)
Working on my fascia system, which is physical but in the beginning actually provides a very therapeutic (although heavy) emotional detox.
Exercise for the endorphins, but not being hard on myself when I just couldn’t gather the mental motivation to get to the gym.
Anticipated sadness for things that were to come that I could not control and made a plan for it. (i.e losing a pet)
Still being there for others in my life, in both happiness and times of distress for them, because it showed me my own strength.
Relating to others: I very much recommend visiting UnderstandUs– which is an organization that aims to de-stigmatize depression. They do wonderful work, and they were actually brought to my attention by the wonderful people at Ayden Creative. (Not often a marketing/PR agency has an agenda that includes human awareness and doing good for people! For that I trust them in what they recommend.)
As always- if you ever need to talk- please feel FREE to shoot me an email at Katey@VioletFog.com or chat with me on IG 🙂 User: @TheVioletFog
Love you guys. xx