Of Sadness, Grief, and Placing Stones

Tomorrow will mark eight months that I’ve been carrying this sadness around inside of me. 

Though I’ve struggled with depression for several years, this seemed like a different kind of sadness. It was the complete and total absence of hope. Unlike my depression, which was blind and endless, seemingly for no reason, this sadness oozed from my heart filling my body with a poison, fueled by my injuries. 

As days passed and my physical condition did not improve, the sadness grew. When my incredible therapist, Meg, told me she had to move away, the sadness stopped oozing and started gushing, enveloping me in its inescapable darkness. 

Meg had found me at my rock bottom. And on that rock bottom, she had helped me to build a foundation of happiness and self acceptance. She had helped me to rise above my circumstances and my mental illnesses. And each session we placed another stone onto that foundation, helping me to climb higher and higher, out of and away from that pit of despair. 

And when she told me she was leaving, it felt as though life had taken a sledgehammer and eradicated every last stone that I had placed in my three years of work with Meg. 

It seemed as though without her I would never place another stone or climb to a new height, let alone return to the place I had been resting at. 

My dietitian and my new therapist worked tirelessly trying to help me heal. Trying to help me process the sadness so I could once again begin placing stones on my foundation. 

And though I tried, giving every ounce of strength I had left in me towards the placing of a new stone, I could not. 

The sadness was too great. It immobilized me. It prevented me from going higher, while dragging me down, slowly chipping away at my crumbling foundation. 

And then, of all things I went to an event on campus, Southern Smash, and I was confronted head on with Eating Disorder Recovery. There were body positive activities, statements, and people and I had no choice but to look at them. 

That night, I was given the opportunity to hear about how others had built their foundations. As I listened to their stories of failures and of triumphs, I felt the sadness start to dissipate. 

That night, I went to sleep feeling as though I was floating. I wasn’t sure why, until I realized that this was how I used to feel. Before the sadness and the depression took over. 

I realized that my sadness had become so great that it felt as though the weight of the world was upon me, crushing me. And in that moment I realized that the sadness was my old enemy depression. That it had creeped in slowly and cut off the joy inside of me, making me feel that I would never feel this light again. 

One of my favorite things about Meg has always been this uncanny ability she has to watch and listen as I share my pain. And as I lay the burden down in front of her, she had this ability to help me shoulder the weight of it before I pick it back up. I never felt as heavy after sharing something with her, and the sadness knew that, so when she moved away, it increased the weight of my burdens ten fold. 

The sadness had used the loss of a key figure in my life to build up my walls, isolating me from any and everyone that could help me. 

My sadness hadn’t realized that a person I met at Southern Smash was a threat to its existence, and as a result it hadn’t put its walls up. Little did it know that, just as she smashed scales, the founder of that organization would smash those walls with a sledgehammer. And when she did, the cycle broke and I was able to open up to those who could help me. I was able to take some of the weight off my chest and breathe again. 

More importantly, I was able to place another stone on my foundation for the first time in almost eight months that week. And since then I have continued to place stones, slowly building myself up to where I one day hope to be. 

So now, I find myself in the oddest place. For the first time in months, I have patience and I radiate joy. My smile is not forced for the benefit of those I care about, but rather is genuine and complete and totally natural. 

At the end of each day I lay awake, having trouble sleeping as I relive the tiny things throughout the day that made me smile. 

Though the night terrors are not gone, and the images that flash through my head throughout the day are still painful, I have found things to hold on to. I have finally found a way to move forward, and most importantly to have hope. 

I believe that one day I will get better. That the migraines and wrist pain and all of the terrible images in my head will be gone. I know that eating will become as easy as breathing and that self care will be second nature. But for now they are not. And I finally see that even if I don’t like where I’m at right now, I can still accept it and focus on the little things to still have joy in my life. 

Because instead of trying to put a bandaid over the sadness, I have to dig deep. I have to put my hand inside that wound and find the very core of that sadness. To acknowledge it and validate it and then, when I’m ready, to gently remove it from my heart, allowing the remaining hole to fill with all the things that make me happy. 

So for now, I choose to honor and accept that sadness. To take a hard look at all the reasons that having that sadness makes sense. To respect the emotion and process it, so that it can truly heal. 

And in the meantime, I’ll just keep placing stones, one at a time…

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