I am a known introvert. When the going gets tough, I hibernate. That is my defense mechanism. Being that I am an avid book lover, I also read (thankfully this pairs well with hibernation). Lately I've been turning to self help books. This is the way that I try to make sense of it all without having to openly admit that I am struggling.
Currently I am reading Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg. This book offers great insight into building resilience and moving forward after life's setbacks. The premise of the book is that even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. The title is meant to imply that we are all living some form of Option B.
Feeling the way that I do, it's hard to go out into the world and have to answer the same question over and over. "How are you?" ~ "Fine" I lie.
Last night while reading Option B, the words of psychologist David Caruso resonated with me. He observes, “culture demands that the answer to the question ‘How are you?’ is not just ‘Good.’ … We need to be ‘Awesome.’ ” Caruso adds, “There’s this relentless drive to mask the expression of our true underlying feelings.” Admitting that you’re having a rough time is “almost inappropriate.”
I could not agree more. Often times I notice that people who ask me how I am are moving on to something else before I even have a chance to answer the question. It's almost a given that we are to answer with a rote fine, good, or even awesome.
As I move through my struggles with grief and depression, I am learning more and more who it is that I can be honest with. I know who will accept "fine" and move on and I know who will call my bluff.
I am also beginning to understand that grief is chronic. It never truly goes away. It is not something that you get over. Rather, it is more about remission and relapse from which there is no cure. What that means is, you cannot simply wait for it to pass, for it to be over. You instead have to move through it, like a swimmer caught in an undertow.
This is not saying that joy will never be found again. It does come, often surprising me when it does. But it is in those times that my grief sneaks up on me and drags me down again. Guilt plays a major role in that. Happy moments are sometimes the worst because that is when the ache is the strongest.
I have come to think of my grief and depression as if it were a heavy cloak. It is something that I wear for awhile and then suddenly I realize that it is heavy and I am exhausted from the weight of it. At these times I work very hard to take it off and hang it in my closet. This does not mean that I am able to let go of it, but it does mean that I am desperate to free myself from it, close the door on it for a bit.
I hope that this cloak is something that I will someday outgrow. Perhaps I will then be able to stop wearing it and leave it in my closet, only coming back to visit it every once in a while. It will then be something I will no longer carry with me. Not in the sense that it is a burden. I will always carry it in my heart, but I cannot carry it on my back forever.