I often use my workouts as a way to get out of my own head, to turn down any emotions that are swirling around and need to be tempered, and use up extra energy whipped up by anxiety. After I’m done, I always feel relief. But not today.
My aunt died very suddenly and unexpectedly last week. And the grief maintains its grip on my heart. As it should. In time I know that the pain will dull and the tears will stop. But not today. Today the pain compels me to write and share a piece of her story. Today I honor my vivacious, joyful, fiercely-loving aunty who took her own life. My charismatic aunt gave so much of herself to her family, to keep them healthy and whole. Perhaps she had nothing left to give to herself. Perhaps it became too much for her to handle. Perhaps she felt alone and isolated. Perhaps she just became numb. We’ll never know.
After the funeral service, or maybe before, it was all a blur so I honestly don’t remember, someone said “if only she would have had cancer. We could have prepared.” While I don’t know if we can ever really be prepared to lose someone we love, I believe cancer and depression have much in common. A cancer is something evil or malignant that spreads destructively. My experience with depression is one of destructive thoughts spreading, growing and seeping into every aspect of my life. Like cancer depression can have physical symptoms. It stops us from doing things we used to enjoy Some cancer some treatments are successful. But others aren’t. Some patients go into remission only to have the cancer come back. Some of us are able to fight back the depression and move on. Some of us have relapses and never recover. Too often mental illness is treated as being less serious than physical illnesses. It is something we talk about in whispers, quietly, behind closed doors and rarely publicly, like a dirty little secret.
Today I chose to write about my aunt to bring light mental illnesses, to honor her struggle. Today I chose to share this with you to honor her love. Today I choose to take care of myself to honor her.