Depression affects approximately 14.8 million adults in America, or about 6.7 percent of the population. Depression can cause physical illness, mental and emotional instability. It can end a relationship, a marriage and even a life. Depression is debilitating and fighting it is a constant 24 hour battle.
Drugs can help in the fight, but usually the best cure for depression is to eliminate the reason for the depression or at least redirect the situation that is causing it.
Unfortunately, as a widow, that cause is staring me in the face day and night and cannot be removed or redirected. It is not a tangible thing, it is a huge gap, an empty hole, a lack of presence.
Amputees often speak of being able to feel their missing limb. The medical profession calls it phantom pain. Amputees say that they are often surprised when they look down and see an arm or a leg gone. It’s as if the body and mind cannot accept the loss. So as long as they don’t look, everything is as it should be.
That’s how it is with me. Although, instead of an arm or a leg, I am missing the other half of me. Being a part of a loving couple for so long has expanded my since of self to include my husband. Even when he was in the other room or gone on an errand, there was a tangible tether tying us together. Not binding or constricting, but an almost physical representation of our love and commitment for each other.
But our tether was severed by his death. I feel like the end that was attached to him is now flailing wildly, frantically in the darkness. It’s not so much that I feel a phantom pain but instead I feel a great absence. And that never stops.
Even when I am in the middle of something, I still feel it. Surrounded by friends and family, I still feel it. Amidst laughter and gaiety and distractions, I still feel it.
It is slowly chipping away at me, much like water dripping on a rock. Over the course of time, the water creates a hole and continuously expands it until eventually there is nothing left of the rock.
Every day, I feel like I am a little bit less, a little bit more wounded, a little bit more empty.
I go through the motions. I do my job, I take care of the four footed furry brigade, I ride my horse, I go out with family, I read my books, watch my TV shows, talk with friends and family and even laugh, yet, none of it really touches me.
I feel cocooned. Wrapped in a never ending litany that is crying over and over how much I want my husband back. Even when concentrating on something else, I can still hear it in the corner of my mind, whimpering, begging, pleading for someone to make this not true. It never ends, it is never quiet, it is becoming a part of me and slowly eroding who I was and molding me into someone I don’t want to be: a widow.
I want and need a reset button.
I admit that I am on happy pills. I admit that I need those happy pills. Because I need to function, I need to involve myself into and accomplish daily tasks. I do not have the luxury of being able to devote myself exclusively to mourning.
I can’t because life intrudes. Bills arrive in my mailbox that need to be paid, four footed furry things need to be cared for, clothes need to be washed, groceries bought, and a dozen other little things that need to be done each day. Things that I need to put in the front of the line. So instead, my grief is put on hold until the late evenings.
In this day and age, seems like everything needs to be scheduled…including mourning.
So all day long, I stuff my feelings of solitude, of loneliness, of excruciating emotional pain into a little box deep inside, only daring to allow a small bit of it loose at night when I have the time to confront it, take care of it, deal with it. I daren’t open the box completely because I am terrified that I will not survive the onslaught. That I will become so engulfed that all reason and sanity will be lost forever.
But that box can only hold so much so there is leakage that erodes my soul. The medical community defines it as depression. My mind and body define it as devastation and it constantly eats at me.
Each evening, I release the pressure valve. Just enough to relieve some of the symptoms because no amount will ever relieve the cause. I cry, I hug one of the furry brigade, I scream, I rant and rave, I beg and plead, I curl up in pain, until I am exhausted and feel that some of the pressure has been removed.
During the day, when the pressure builds too much, I do other things. I post onto my husband’s Facebook page. Just little things about what happened that day, or pictures that say how much I love and miss him. When I really need to cry on his shoulder, I send him private messages.
That seems a little bizarre to do so, but it actually helps. A dear friend of mine lost her son and she does the same. She said that it helps her and I believe it. Probably because we are conditioned to speaking with people via social media. People who live long distances away and some who’ve we’ve never met in person but still became friends. So in some way, my mind is justifying this, convincing myself that my husband is just out of reach, but still here and reading his posts. His lack of response is merely a defective keyboard. Maybe it’s not healthy but I don’t really care.
I wear his wedding ring around my neck, along with a little cross with some of his ashes. When it gets too much I clutch at them like a lifeline. It helps me stabilize, helps me retain my bearings and equilibrium when I am unsteady. It relieves just enough pressure for me to move on for a bit until it builds up again.
It’s hard to rationalize this whole situation. I have no basis of comparison. No life experience to draw on. Listening and reading of other’s accounts are mere shadows to the reality. Even as vivid of an imagination as I have cannot comprehend the magnitude of widowhood.
It is an ever present, overwhelming, nightmare that haunts my day and night hours. One, in which that little voice keeps begging 24 hours a day to wake up from.
It continues day after day after day with no end in sight. A continuous monotony of empty days. An everlasting manipulation of my emotional state that must be constantly monitored so as to prevent falling too far into the abyss.
A constant tug-of-war between what is real and what is desired. My mind spinning from one to the other, trying to make sense, to figure out a pattern in which I can dive into and gain stability. But although my mind can justify things seen and heard by matrixing them into something familiar, this is beyond its capabilities.
Widowhood is not something that can be neatly categorized into little psychiatric slots. It is not something that can be cured with medication. Unlike depression, it cannot be contained, maintained and understood.
It can only be endured, as we continue onward, a mere shadow of what we once were.