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My mum passed away on the 12 July 2023. She had started to show signs of memory decline about 2.5 years ago. 1 year ago her sister passed and the stress of it all triggered significant memory issues with numerous people reaching out to me to discuss it. A month after than she had an episode that looked like TIA’s but then they thought it was seizures… we never really found out what happen… 4 years ago mum had vulva cancer, had surgery and lots removed. About 6 months ago she had a recurrence of the vulva cancer so a second surgery to have more removed. With her memory declining it was a scary time. 1 week before the surgery she had a PET scan which indicated the cancer was only on the vulva. 6 weeks after surgery another vulva lump was discovered. A second PET scan, 8 weeks between the 2. Showed the cancer had spread to her pelvic region and into her bone. The surgeon said maybe 12 months. A week later the Oncologist said a month without radiotherapy, maybe 6 months with. She was booked in for radiotherapy the following week, she was booked to stay at the hospital for 4 treatments over 2 days, every 2 weeks for 3 session, we lived 2.5hrs away. We went down for the 3rd session which she declined to follow thru with (longer story but doesn’t matter here). She never left the hospital & passed a week later.
I have Pre existing Depression and Anxiety. I’m diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I was first diagnosed with Depression at 15, I’m now 50. I hit my worse point 17 years ago when I became a single mum of a 1 & 3 year old boys. I’ve done a LOT of therapy, ultimately it was Dialectal Behaviour Therapy in 2015 that saved my life. It changed my thinking, gave me all the skills and strategies to manage my mental health and I was thriving. I had it all completely under control.
Through mum’s illness I was strong. I had a few anxiety attacks but managed them all in my stride, standard sort of stuff for me. I managed her passing, planning and attending her funeral. I was in “Doing” mode. Checking off the list. Using meditation, breathing and all my self care strategies – I know and use them all. It’s how I’ve managed life to learn to live with Depression and Anxiety. I felt so strong. I had my moments, usually in private. My anxiety was running high but I was managing it.
But once the doing was done, a few days after the funeral where it becomes more about waiting for offical processes – selling house, probate. I’d done all the shutting down of services/accounts etc before the funeral. It hit… The darkness hit me like a ton of bricks. Full Depression, Anxiety darkness – extreme emotional overwhelm… Scared the absolute crap out of me. Had not felt like that in 17 years when I first became a single parent. I used my strategies over a couple of days but nothing was working. I was panicking that I was back there. That place I spent 17 years fighting to get out.
I googled, I searched, I read. I found griefline and have had 1 counselling session. Another booked for Saturday. I realised after several days that what I was feeling was Grief. Once I associated my feelings to Grief my strategies started to work. The fear of going backwards left but the grief I’m feeling is still triggering Depression and Anxiety based reactions/behaviours. I use all my strategies, all the self care techniques. They are helping me get thru and I keep telling myself that time will help. Passing the milestones – selling the house, having probate finalised, the estate settled, still about 3-4 months off that. Then I can establish a new life. I’m transitioning towards it but I would really like all the doing to be completely done.
I came back to my home town with my kids for mum’s support. She did want she could, she was all I had. She loved me. She wasn’t the greatest mum in the world. I still largely did life on my own. I had to fight for myself. She didn’t understand what I was going thru and didn’t much like young kids either. She was better when they were older but by then the needs were different. As much as she wasn’t there for me, she was the one that was there for me the most. She was the one that when the chips were really down. She was there, often with financial support, which is great… but… She was mostly there when I needed to talk to someone… She was good at listening and helping me see things differently to how I was thinking. She wasn’t there so much for time with the kids to give me a break, unless the shit hit the fan.. then she was.. for a little… So I have really mixed feelings. Thru DBT I accepted that mum was who she was and could only do what she could do. I was grateful for that. I am grateful for that.
I’ve been slowly losing my mum for 2.5 years expecting the journey to be longer into dementia. Cancer made it so much quicker. I had zero expectation of how I would be in losing her. I knew it wouldn’t be good but this… the way the grief sits so closely to Depression… The same Sadness. That wave, that just hits for no particular reason. I use the strategies to get thru it each and every time but overall I’m not okay. My baseline has dropped back to numbness. “Happiness” feels so much different.
I didn’t feel Happiness for many years between become single and doing DBT. Thru DBT I had a moment, where I actually felt Happy. Within seconds had anxiety over feeling it… with work, time & practice to embraced the feeling. The more I did the better I got, my baseline rose from sadness to numbness to happiness… Now.. it’s fleeting… it’s there but it’s mixed with the sadness.
Gratitude and Acceptance are my 2 greatest … skills? Maybe… I have a saying that Gratitude was my ticket out of Depression and Acceptance was my ticket to Peace… True Peace… It’s an amazing feeling after many years of Depression. I’ve accepted all that has happened, how things are. I’m so grateful for all that I had with mum. I cherish my memories and good times. I just miss her… plan and simple.
The problem is that I want to get back to were I was before she passed. I want to feel happiness again.. I don’t want to be stuck in this sadness. In this spot for an extended period of time. We talked a lot about death through my mental health journey. We talked a lot about moving on and living life. Her passing will free me up financially and I intend to move away. To start fresh. I’m pushing thru like always, determined to reach the light.
While I am largely posting this for myself. To get it out of me. I would also like to hear from others who have pre-existing mental health issues that have been triggered by grief. I would love to hear how time healed… how you came to live with the pain… I suppose it’s like all other emotional pain that I’ve learnt to accept and live with/let go of.
I know everyone experiences grief differently. We are all different, our lives are different, our relationship with our lost loved one is different. All factors in how we grieve I suppose.
My love and best wishes to you all. Thanks for listening (reading)
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