Monday, October 28, 2013

Taking things slow again: more ramblings about grief

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It's amazing how little can set off grief again.  Actually, sometimes it's still weird calling it "grief," because that just brings to mind me sobbing or being pointedly sad about something to do with missing DeForest.  Grief also just plain means things that are often associated with depression: a general lack of energy, or inability to make myself do things, or an anxiety spiral in my head that leads nowhere.

I had a meeting on Friday morning.  I got a couple fewer hours of sleep, had to beat back my anxiety about not having much to say about my progress (it's always hard, because others in the lab are doing so much more, to not freak out about how small my accomplishments in the lab are), had to get myself to the office, and had to sit through a 1.5 hour meeting while trying not to make it obvious that I just didn't care what anyone else was saying at the time.  It's actually an amazing contrast from before - I used to be there, asking probing questions about things I didn't understand, making sure I knew what was going on, offering feedback, and Friday I just sat there, quietly, doodling, not wanting to ask questions because I just wanted it to all be over with and trying to suppress the shame of that.  I know I love science somewhere in me, but I also know I just need a break right now, to give it time for that love to come back and to allow me to focus on the things in my life that are bringing me joy.

And even though, objectively, this one meeting wasn't that much - before grief, it would just have been a minor "urgh" in my life, but no big deal - it's made me much slower for days now.  I meant to post to the blog on Friday again (even had a post with pictures already in it!  Just needed to add a few words!), but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  Saturday was an all day SCA event.  Sunday was a fencing demo at the library and a visit to the local fiber faire, but that only took a few hours and I thought that maybe I would post Sunday evening, but I was exhausted by 7 pm and couldn't bring myself to care.

Today, I didn't wake up until almost 1 pm, and barely have managed to feed myself today, and spend some time dinking around the internet.  I didn't feel like posting something randomly happy, so I thought I would talk about grief again.

Grief isn't just sadness, though there's a hell of a lot of that mixed in there, too.  Grief is being taken down and kicked backwards by stupid little things, and it's impossible from the outside to tell what will really hurt someone's progress and what won't, because it all has to do with a weird balance of how much internal emotional energy different things take to do.  Want to learn a little bit about how much effort it takes to do things?  Read this article on the Spoon Theory.  It does a good job of explaining one side of why some things take so much energy to accomplish.

I was talking with one of my friends today about needing a break from work (I use school and work as the same concept, because they are for me right now), and she said something I thought was great:

Me: Before [during the first year of grief], I would work until I cried and couldn't do so much, but I was crying and feeling shitty all the time, so feeling shitty at work didn't make that much of a difference. Now, I'm at the point where if I take things really, really slowly and don't do much, or just do the things which give me energy (crafting, gaming, seeing certain friends), I can actually feel somewhat okay for periods of time. School messes with that and is adding stress, and I can't cope as well with it for now. It's kind of weird that I could handle work more when everything was worse. Before, work made things worse, but things were already so bad that I didn't notice much, and in fact, sometimes things were fun at my job, so that was nice and a relief occasionally. Now, it just exhausts me and the difference in myself is much more noticeable.

Friend: It's not really very strange. Most of the time, work is routine enough that you can get into a zone. You still feel like shit, but you have enough responsibility that you can keep from crying. A lot of people will work through the first stages of grief and then need a break from work when they start healing enough to start taking an interest in the things they used to like to do. It tends to get in the way of this new step in your recovery where there's still a lot of pain, but you've healed enough to want to find fun in things and remember how to live. I'm glad you're healing enough to be open to that step - it's one of the hardest steps in the grief process. Some people never open up to that step.

She put it so well: there's still a lot of pain, but I've healed enough to want to find the fun in things and remember how to live.  That is how I've felt the last couple months - that I just need a break from everything, to just do the things I love so I can slowly build up the energy to tackle my chores and eventually be able to do my job again.  I'm doing the hard work of remembering how to live right now, and that needs to be my focus.

All of this talk about things being bad, about how I've been absent from the blog and not caring about a lot of things because of the effort of one meeting - I also want to make clear that I'm amazed at myself and my progress, too.  Because I've done a hell of a lot these last few days.  I went to an SCA event that I remember from last year as having mostly just hung out and occasionally sobbed through.  This Saturday?  I went, and I laughed a lot.  I didn't fence, but I got training done for becoming a marshal.  I made two items for my not-yet-opened Etsy shop, trying new things that I think are awesome.  Sunday: I went to a fencing demo and actually did a few passes and had a good time, and then went and bought myself a new sheepskin (oh my god it's so furry and wonderful), and then I felt like crap all evening, but I also did my first ever leatherworking with a stone inlaid.  (It's quite an adorable pouch, if I do say so myself.  I hope to take pictures soon and post them.)  

So the last few days have been in many ways harder again, and I'm having to take a lot of deep breaths and remind myself a lot to TAKE... IT... SLOW... and try to let go of anxiety.  It works in some moments, and not in others.  It's hard to remember to take each day as it comes, and to try and enjoy what I can each day.  But it's helping.  I'm meeting with a student advocate on Wednesday to discuss my options for temporarily leaving school (like a medical leave).  I'm hoping that meeting goes well.

~Kelly

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