We didn't mean to, but my friend Debby Myers and I seem to be doing a little series on grief and depression. Mine is at Peru Indiana Today and Deb's is here. The fact that we both wrote on it at virtually the same time without the other knowing made me think about how many people are in anguish, be it physical, emotional, or mental. How many people are suffering in silence? In aloneness? Thinking there is no light at the end of their personal tunnel? It's important to share it and to take care of it. Sometimes finding someone to talk to is your first step to "getting out of bed."
Thanks, Debby, for sharing this part of your journey. I feel privileged that you write for the Window. - Liz
Why do you get out of bed in the morning? Have you ever really asked yourself? Oh, sure, you have the usual reasons―go to work, go to school, go visit friends. But what if you didn’t have anywhere to go? What if you couldn’t go even if you wanted to? Would you get out of bed? After all, sleeping is how we spend 35 percent of our lives. Being in bed is where we are most comfortable, where we are relaxed. Why get up? Do you have to have a reason? If you didn’t have to, would you?
Getting out of bed each morning is really a matter of self-worth. In my opinion and from my experience, it’s something you have to do for yourself and no one else. It’s how we are meant to spend the other 65 percent of our lives―out of bed. Getting up, making the bed, eating breakfast, taking a shower, and getting dressed are all activities we do for ourselves. In my situation, I don’t have to get out of bed. I don’t have to hurry off anywhere, don’t have to go to work, can’t drive anymore to go visit friends or family.
For a while, I didn’t. I stayed in bed all day sometimes and never left my bedroom except to potty. I didn’t want to eat and I didn’t care about myself. Getting up for me meant more pain, more struggles, more facing my new reality.
But it’s when you don’t get out of bed in the morning that you know you may have sunk into depression. Often nothing or no one can pull you up except you. It’s not easy. I kept thinking, who cares if I get up or how I look? No one is coming over. I have nowhere to go. Why not stay where I am most comfortable and relaxed?
In my case, as I lay in bed in my jammies with the TV on at two in the afternoon, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was on. Yet somewhere in my subconscious, I heard a woman say, “You can never really love someone else until you love yourself.” Of course, I’d heard that phrase before, but this time it must have really stuck. I dozed off to sleep again and began dreaming about all of those I love―my husband, my parents, my children and grandchildren. But not myself.
When I woke up, I got up out of bed. I made the bed, ate, took a shower, and got dressed. I stood and looked in the mirror for a long time thinking about what that woman had said. I decided to put on makeup and style my hair. Afterward I looked in the mirror again and said out loud, “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.” But the truth was – I knew right then, at that moment, I didn’t.
I had to do something. I didn’t really want to spend my life hiding in my bedroom. I needed help. I went on the portal for my neurologist. I wrote to her explaining and admitting for the first time that I was suffering from depression. Me―depression. Two words I never thought would be linked in the same sentence. She told me to make a list of reasons to stay in bed and reasons to get up each morning. Surprisingly the reasons to get up heavily outweighed the reasons to stay in bed. She also pointed out the obvious―that I had recently learned I had multiple sclerosis.
Finding out that you have a chronic illness and learning to live with it is like when you suffer the loss of a loved one, only that loved one is you. In an instant, your whole life changes and you lose who you used to be. My neurologist took me through all the five stages of loss.
1. Grief – I’d had plenty of that and survived that one.
2. Denial – already conquered that one too.
3. Isolation – just got through that one.
4. Depression – that’s where I am now.
5. Acceptance ― This was the one I needed to survive and conquer now.