Finding Hope Under the Blanket

The retired man I live with walked into the den recently and said, “Ten years ago you had cancer. Now you have 3 grandchildren. It’s all going to be okay.”

I was in a dark place that day, a place I called depression. A few weeks later, my therapist called it grief.

In the last 2 years, my brother (the last of my family of origin) died, and I had 6 surgeries, most complicated by very slow healing due to immune-suppressant drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. I had reason to be in a dark place. But I didn’t label it grief until my therapist did.

There’s a difference, for me, between depression and grief. Depression feels endless and hopeless. Grief, on the other hand, is a recognition of loss, a process that I can move through. There is hope in that.

My friend, Kim, a former Hospice grief counselor, said that grief and depression can feel the same. For me, both involve emotional and physical fatigue that makes any kind of movement challenging. Inertia settles over me like a blanket and I become comfortable there.

I don’t drink anymore and depression kills my appetite so I don’t stress-eat. I use reading as my numbing-agent, my drug of choice.  I can tune out any feelings or circumstances if I have something to read. Inertia looks okay if I’m reading, right?

My family valued good grades and achievement and emotional control. I need to feel competent. So, in my head, my physical limitations become defects, which makes me defective, not competent. And so I am grieving the loss of my competent self.

My therapist helped me see that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I don’t tell myself the truth.

I’ve been dealt a hand of cards that includes physical limitations, but I can find competence within those limitations. I tell myself I have strengths and talents that are still available to me, no matter how well I walk or balance on one foot. Sometimes I believe that.

I’m not sure just when the window opened on my dark place and started letting some light in. I became willing to change, to move out of the comfortable, dark place under that warm blanket of inertia into a new place of acceptance and hope. I became willing to do the hard work of growth.

Without words, my spirit reached out to God and grace made the difference.

It’s rained here for a week and a half with a couple more days of showers to come. The temperature has dropped into the 50’s. A week ago, I had to stop one of my arthritis medications because of possible side effects. Between the no-medication and the weather, my whole body feels stiff and achy.

But I’m okay in that. A bit whiny at times, but not rooted in a chair with a book. In a bit, I’ll go to a recovery group at Higher Ground, the drop-in house for people who are HIV positive. This afternoon I’ll go sit with a Hospice patient for a couple of hours to give the caregiver a break. Tomorrow morning I’ll go to an AA meeting and then out to lunch with a woman I sponsor.

I’m grateful today for the energy to push through the remnants of grief and the physical challenges of the day. It helps to focus on the needs of others.

I look for balance between denial and being overwhelmed. Denial sends me back to my chair with a book. Overwhelmed takes all my energy and I care about nothing. Balance says, “Okay, today I hurt, but I can go sit in a chair and listen to others just as easily as I can take root in my lonely chair at home”.

Balance requires mindfulness, acceptance, gratitude and hard work paired with surrender to what is.

Many times lately, my prayer is simply, “Help me.” And that is enough.

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Published in: on October 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm  Comments (15)  
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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In so many places in this post, your words are my life. Thank you, Robin, for in your capable hands, I gain perspective.

    Like you, I take refuge in reading, if you count listening to books recorded on CD as listening, which I do. Since the surgery on my neck, I am told to keep my head up to aid in the healing. I have done that and soon, I hope, the actual reading of a book in hand will be possible.

    I suppose there are worse (and better, probably) ways to deal with the sometimes fatigue and other times inertia that seem to share my rooms. I do not always acknowledge them for like you, I have my times when energy seems to favor me. Today is one.

    I have blathered on long enough but posts like this one always make me feel as if you and I have just finished a long, warm conversation. It leaves us both with energy. Thanks, Robin.

    Karen

    • I feel close to you, too, Karen. I’ve learned much from your Buddhist wisdom about acceptance and endurance. I’m glad you’re there.

  2. I tuck your amazing wisdom and grace away in a safe place to which I can go when I need it. Your vulnerability makes me feel strong and in good company. I am truly grateful.

    • Thank you, Suzanne. I’m not always comfortable being so honest, but I am called somehow to share all this. I hope it helps someone.

  3. I find your wonderful way with words, your honesty, your generosity of spirit and your open heart both inspiring and humbling. I send blessings to you for this day and for every day.

    • Thank you, Ann. Your words mean so much.

  4. Thanks Robin. I am in a place that right now. I had forgotten that grief is much like depression. I know that reaching out to others is what we are told to do to get out of self. Yet, the idea of reaching out seems so overwhelming. I have so many “reasons” for staying under my blanket, literally.
    Thank you for the reminder that asking for help is OK.
    Let me know if you find any retreats within driving distance. I think I could use one.
    Cathy

    • Check out Pelican House at Trinity Center in Salter Path, NC. (Emerald Isle)
      Days and days of rain can’t help. I wish you dry and sunny skies, Cathy.

  5. When my father died I went into a long, long spell of grief. I did it voluntarily because I suppressed the grief when my mother died and in doing so lost the connection to her. My heartfelt grief for my father went on nearly two years. I didn’t realize how dark my grief was until one day, driving in the car the sunlight suddenly shone brightly straight into my eyes–and suddenly, I felt a lift, as if the light was dispelling the long, dark night of grief. I remembered, if briefly, what it felt like to be light and elated, but it was a start. Sometimes the dark night of the soul has to be endured until the light comes again. But it is hard.

  6. Another lesson in patience and faith. Thanks for your openly words.

  7. Even friends Of Bill W. can get down sometimes. 🙂 My home group meeting always makes me feel better.

  8. Great post. We can feel grief for many things other than actual deaths. We mourn for lost dreams, for vanished vitality, for withered friendships. But I do believe that grief is a process and it is possible to come out stronger on the other side.

    • I think part of the work of getting older is learning to grieve. Thanks, Susan, for reading and commenting.


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