Thursday, July 26, 2012

Giving Grief Some Space

Hello Friends:

A question came up on a forum - what have you lost or missed out on in life because of your mental illness?  I usually avoid these questions, because I want to be 'positive' all the time.  Yet I know that some of that inclination stems from a dysfunctional need to avoid the past.  I do not like to allow myself to grieve.  I can't stand the sensation of loss, so I repress loss and grief mercilessly.  I know it would be a good idea to put down what I've lost to MI, and honor that grief.

So here are a few things.  Not all of them, but at least some that I can articulate at the moment:

-   I did not get to be a child.  I was scared every moment of my childhood that additional abuse would come my way.

-   I did not have parents.  There were ostensibly two people there, and they did give me a home and enough resources to survive.  But with my parents both having untreated MIs (esp my Mom) and addictions (esp my Dad) they were not really parents.  (And now, having fully estranged them, I certainly don't have parents.  But that's been a necessary part of setting boundaries.)

-   I missed out on having a good sense of self.  Other people don't hate themselves, and I do.

-   I missed out on more social events than I can count.  Weddings, parties, casual gatherings, everything.  So much.

-   I lost about five years of my life.  It wasn't all at once - it was about 3.5 years during one depressive episode and then another 1.5 in another.  During that time I did almost nothing at all.  Completely wasted time.  Five years, poof, gone.  I was so depressed that except for the pain I hardly even remember them at all.

-   I lost the career track I worked so hard to build.  It isn't impossible that I might get it back someday, but the loss stings.

I feel compelled, however, to mention what I didn't miss.  This might be me being dysfunctional again, already turning aside from the hurting place, but I can't help it.  I found a great spouse, and we've been married for almost 14 years.  I got my BS and then my PhD in the subject I really wanted.  I can't work in that field right now because of the MIs, but I do have the formal background to do it.  I've been able to do a lot of writing, and it's been very rewarding and fun.  I've gone on a lot of business trips to amazing places.  I have a small number of very good friends who are supportive when I need it.  I've been able to develop empathy and a deeper understanding for suffering than most of my peers.

Do you have something you feel you need to grieve, but that you haven't really given the space?

Your Hostess With Neuroses

Image credit/info: Girl Young Woman from


Tina Fariss Barbour said...

This is a powerful post. You were brave and strong to list what you believe you've lost to mental illness, and then list the blessings you have.

There are things I grieve for when I let myself do so. I grieve that I never had the kind of parents that I needed. I grieve the time lost to fear and depression. I grieve the time wasted to OCD.

This post will have me thinking for a while!

Days In The Life Of Susan, An Animal Shelter Worker Who Has Bipolar Disorder said...

Wow, I'm thinking on this one too! I admire you for how you got through such difficult times in your life, and came out a stronger person. Well done! My grieving..I won't say all the reasons, or I'd be typing forever..but some of the things I've lost due to mental illness are; I lost my education, have never worked except for 6 months part time when I was 16, Have no partner or children, and have barely had any friends. Positives - lots of holidays, or as you say, vacations. Learnt strategies such as positive self talk, relaxation, finding out who I really am. Opportunities in the past, and now to work with and communicate with animals. But I'd say the thing I grieve most - I've lost nearly all of my life, I became unwell when I was 12, I'm 39 now. Susan :)

Yaya said...

You certainly are brave for addressing what you have been suppressing for so long.

I have many things that I have lost to mental illness. Lots of family events, and especially lots of time I will never get back. I am like you in the way that I try to focus on the positive and not let the cloud from the past still hover over my head, but sometimes it's good to address it to be able to move on.

Your honesty helps some of us be more honest with ourselves. :)


The Blue Morpho said...

Hello Tina, Days, and Yaya - Yes, so much comes down to time lost, either to fear, anxiety, or depression. Times we don't remember. Times we couldn't spend with others, or even ourselves. Times we wanted to live a full life, and couldn't.

midnight rainbow said...

Excellent question and post. I think the biggest thing I grieve about my bipolar disorder is that the manic thought, those larger than life thoughts where everything is so blissful and make me think life is all rainbows and all of our problems will be solved, just about crush me when I come down and find so much of it was my illness. And I grapple with that pain of that loss for a long time before coming to the grips of reality.

It really hurts.

71º & Sunny said...

I'm so sorry for what you've lost and that you had such a painful childhood. I think you've done a wonderful job reclaiming your life, and you can be so incredibly proud of that.

I've lost many, many years to OCD and depression. For a while I grieved that, but I can honestly say I'm ok with it now. I look at that time as a training ground for where I am today, which is a pretty good place.

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