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Survival feels like Selfishness July 11, 2016

Posted by johnbohlinger in Uncategorized.
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My son has been gone a long time now. I’ve made peace with the loss; I still miss him horribly, it still hurts, but in the big picture, I’m fine.

That being said, depression leaves its dust all over you that you never really shake.  It’s almost like going through Chemo, which kills the cancer but you suspect there’s little bits hiding inside your body ready to make their presence known before they kill you.  I’m not afraid of death, poverty, the IRS, or even our current social unrest in the US, but I’m terrified of depression.  That’s a ring of hell too horrible for  Dante to dream up.  So I fight depression every day, both in good ways, (exercise, yoga, sleep) and perhaps bad ways (too much marijuana, too much work).

I’ve been encountering some triggers lately that have had me dipping my toe into the depression pond, checking the temperature before I jump in to drown. I feel weak for feeling it, and winey for admitting it.  I should man up, but instead I go dark. When it stays dark for a few days, I can’t find my way out of it.

Someone I love told me to:  “snap out of depression”.  That’s like saying snap out of diarrhea, or cancer.   Our bodies don’t follow those commands.  I can’t snap out of it, but I can try to avoid triggers that send me there.

In the interest of self-preservation, you have to pull back from toxic situations, and that’s going to feel like selfishness.  Maybe survival is selfish, but maybe it’s worth it for the greater good.  After my son died, living felt like going against nature, but that’s just one of the lies depression tells you. Life’s a beautiful gift, do what you can to enjoy every day. Be selfish if that keeps in you in game; then you can contribute to the greater good.

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1. LA Collins - July 11, 2016

Hi John. Nice to read another post from you. It has been 4 years this summer since I lost my Shawn. I know only too well the fear of depression and the tricks we play to avoid it. Like you, I am absolutely terrified it will sink its teeth into me and never let me go. So far (after the first dreadful year or so, which doesn’t count because that was deep and utter grief, not depression, I think) I have played the avoidance game quite well. Like you, most of my tactics are healthy. I hike with my dogs and ride my horses mostly on my free time. However, I am not just riding anymore. I have taken up rodeo roping and other such silly activities. Not sure if it is because I no longer fear death or need an extra thrill or what? I am sure some analyst would think it merely a coping mechanism. The way I figure, I really do love it [I sometimes feel guilty for enjoying it so much actually] and so it must be good. It certainly is better than sitting depressed in a dark room waiting for death to come and take me away. I have seen plenty of parents who have lost their children and many seem to have turned negative and angry [I was like that at the very beginning]. I am thankful I have not allowed myself to escape through drugs/alcohol so far. [believe me, I was close, especially that first year or two] I have used food as a crutch instead. I think I started to eat my way through my grief for a long while. The consequences are not pretty. Now, I am trying hard to get back to the way I was prior, at least in eating and exercise habits. I know I will never get back to the whole person I was prior to losing Shawn. That person died along with him that day. I am however, attempting to rescue little parts of me.
One really positive thing I achieved since Shawn’s death is getting my HBASC in only 3 years instead of 4 [I attribute the short time to the fact that I am terrified of not having immense workload on my brain and thus allowing time to think, which i can not handle yet at all]. And I am already more than 1/2 way through my MSc Biology now too. Crazy since it has only been 4 years but this is my way of depression avoidance. At least it is somewhat positive. I am scared that when I am done and no longer have such a heavy workload, depression will sweep down and destroy me, a little bit at a time, in its slow and torturous way. I really do not know what I am going to do about that but will hope to find some other positive way to deal with it.
One thing I still cannot find the strength to do is sit and look through my photo albums or videos. Not even once since his death. Just the thought turns my stomach. The fear is overwhelming actually. What if I open an album and I fall apart at the memories? Then what? Who will pull me out of it? Will I just fall into the deep dark hole I fear so much? My girls are grown and have families of their own. My youngest is 18 now and seeking a life of his own, and honestly, 18 year olds are not overly helpful most times, even the best of them, [he is great]. Besides, I would not even want him to know I was feeling so bad. [which is the main reason I think I have made it thus far. Knowing I must at least appear strong to my children, as they too are facing the loss of their brother].
So, I am alone. And although I appear to have come through this tragedy in tact I am not really. I am teetering on the edge of depression, brushing it away before it can catch hold hard. Every day I get up and hope that I will do the things I need to do to stay well. Eat. Work. Sleep. Exercise. Walk my dogs. Ride my horse. It is a daily battle.It takes a conscious effort. Many days I do not want to do it, but still I do[sometimes only because the dogs need to pee].

I am sorry you were told to “snap out of it” John. That’s awful.
Someone I love told me on New Year’s Day that it was time to “put it all behind you now and just move on and forget about him” They won’t even mention his name, as if he never existed!
Geeze that pisses me off! WTF! Really? You want me to forget about my son! Well FU!
But I said none of those things. I was polite. I said nothing. They don’t get it. They never will. And yes, we must do away with toxic things but unfortunately, a part of me does not allow myself this as these people are family.[GUILT] So, I withdraw from them all and go on with my life as best I can. They are clueless and lack compassion. To survive, I must be selfish and stay away from them for the most part. I do not have the strength to deal with them. I don’t imagine they will ever change or suddenly become compassionate or understanding. I must do what it takes to survive.

. To those looking in, I appear well adjusted and coping quite well. From in here, not so much. I can say, I have glimpses of happiness that I never imagined possible that first year. And I really have found peace through my animals. Gotta say, my horse is the best damned shrink anyone could ask for. Not any cheaper though! When I feel that am ready to give up, I will force myself out for a ride and he is like my guardian angel I must say. I rescued him one year (almost to the day) after my son’s death. So I guess you could say we saved each other. I needed him as much as he needed me.

So this is where I am at for going into year #4. I have accepted Shawn’s death. That was key for me. It gives me some sort of peace. It is a fact I cannot argue with. Death is inevitable. Life is what remains questionable. Will I live my life or will I just do the time? Today, I chose to live! Some questions remain…… Does it get better? Will I stop feeling guilty when I am having fun? Will I ever be able to share my life with someone, knowing they will never understand the depth of loss a parent feels when they lose a child? Or will I have to go it alone? Will I ever be able to look at Shawn’s childhood videos without falling apart? So many questions I have. One thing I do now know is that I am much stronger than I ever imagined. I have not merely survived this past 4 years, but have found a way to push beyond my comfort zone, to actually live my life on my terms. To do crazy, and yes, sometimes dangerous things. To dare to live. So far I have kept depression at bay. Every day, I hope I will fight to keep it away. Every day, I will have to make that choice. I sure hope I can do it. I hope you can too John.🙂

2. johnbohlinger - July 11, 2016

Hi, LA Collins.

Thanks for the note. So glad to hear you are riding and rodeoing. That is awesome. And the HBASC in 3…huge accomplishments. Let’s keep chasing the good.

God bless you.

jb


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