Surviving Depression and Death of a Loved One
Today the Bipolar Burble is pleased to welcome author and speaker Hyla Molander. Hyla talks today about how she survived the death of her husband while already dealing with depression. Hyla is currently working on a memoir about her experiences. Check out her Kickstarter campaign.
Taking Zoloft throughout my second pregnancy was a decision my husband, Erik, and I made together. We’d sat with the genetic counselor and had come to the conclusion that my mental stability far outweighed the risks for the baby.
Of course, this was ten years ago—long before there was research on how Zoloft affects the foetus.
I’d been on and off of antidepressants for almost a decade. During those off times, I’d snap at Erik. “Quit touching me. Quit telling me how great you think I am.”
After I repeatedly tried to sabotage our relationship, we finally agreed that I should stay on my meds. Popping that pill meant choosing happiness.
Depression and Death
Then, on Easter Sunday, 2003—a day that had begun with Erik and I discussing how blessed we were—our 17 month old daughter and I watched as he slid down the kitchen counter and died.
At 29 years old, Erik’s heart flicked off like a switch.
Later I would discover that he was misdiagnosed by his cardiologist. Erik had been having palpitations, light-headedness, and an abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) but not because he was stressed out at work. His symptoms came from his Brugada Syndrome—an inherited problem with the electrophysiology of the heart that can—and did—cause sudden death.
So, how do you survive when you are seven months pregnant with your second baby, have hereditary depression, and know that Zoloft is no match for the sudden reality of becoming a 29-year-old widow with two babies?
I hope this is a question you will never have to answer. But death is an unfortunate part of life. And, well, trudging through depression and grief just plain sucks.
Coping with Grief and Depression
While I can’t give the exact recipe for surviving grief and depression, I can tell you what helped me.
- The touch and healing from an intuitive massage therapist
- A grief-specialized psychologist who taught me to visualize places of safety and peace.
- Running, kickboxing, and vigorous exercise
- Frequent check-ups with my primary care physician to assess my medications
- Eye Movement Desensitization Reproccesing (EMDR) for my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Writing through my emotions
- Silencing unsolicited opinions from friends and family members
- Walking across 1400 hot coals and sobbing with 3500 strangers at a Tony Robbins event
- Allowing myself to start doing little things that brought me joy
- Letting go of “survivor guilt” and realizing that Erik wanted me to be happy
- Falling in love again
- Making meaning of my journey by sharing parts of my memoir and helping others
- Being afraid, but believing I could find happiness if I forced myself be open to all of the above
That last one is the most important. I had no idea how I would get through Erik’s death, but I always believed that I would. And I believed that my openness to both traditional and non-traditional types of therapy would reveal the steps along the way.
Let’s face it, we all need to believe that can we can get through our most challenging times. Regardless of our individual circumstances, it is that belief that enables us to come out on the other side as stronger, more compassionate human beings.
Ten years ago, when I was widowed, there was no online support for widows and widowers. Now, though, there are incredible communities which offer support and remind you that you are not alone.
As for my depression? I’ve come to terms with it as something with which I will always wrestle, especially in times of heightened stress. But I now know that I will do whatever it takes to continue finding joy and purpose in my life.
About Hyla Molander
Hyla Molander—author, speaker, photographer, widow, wife, and mother of 4—is Founder of Social Good Project, Co-Founder of Women Rock It, board member for Friends of SF Commission on the Status of Women, and a spokesperson for MMRL, the research lab which is working on a better treatment for her daughters’ inherited Brugada Syndrome.
To receive a signed copy of Hyla Molander’s forthcoming memoir, Drop Dead Life: A Pregnant Widow’s Heartfelt and Often Comic Journey through Death, Birth, and Rebirth, you can contribute $29 to her recently launched Kickstarter campaign.