"I'm doing pretty good" became my phrase of choice after my dad died. For months, I got asked multiple times a day how I was handling things or how I was doing by a number of different people. The easy answer was "I'm doing pretty good" with a half-smile (it says I'm sad, but I'm making it). And honestly, I felt like I was doing pretty good. But the painful truth is that I have been pushing my feelings under a gigantic rug for the past two and a half years, and it's gotten me nowhere fast.
Eventually, as anyone would expect, I didn't get asked these questions daily, or even weekly, anymore. And it'd become so easy to pretend that my life hadn't come crashing to a halt when my dad died. Just stay busy, I kept telling myself, and you won't have to stop and face reality. I filled my time with a new boyfriend, a refueled hobby (running) and as many distractions as I could find.
But when life takes the rug out from under your feet, it's only a matter of time until things catch up to you. For me, the shock and sudden nature of how I lost my dad was too much for me to take in. I have a paranoid personality by nature, one I work hard to keep hidden, so I knew if I ever stopped to accept the hand I'd suddenly been dealt, I wouldn't handle it well. While I kept hearing people tell me "it's not healthy to postpone your grieving," I wasn't listening.
Eventually, my grief reared its ugly head in the form of anxiety in my life. The paranoid personality I'd worked so hard to mask became impossible to ignore anymore. Out of embarrassment, I kept my anxiety-ridden self a secret, hoping things would just go away.
When they didn't, I decided to attend a grief class. Surely this would relieve some of my burden. By this point, my life had become so affected by my tragedy-induced anxiety that I was miserable and willing to give this class a shot. While I enjoyed the class, which lasted several months, I rarely spoke and mostly listened to other people share their stories. And, not so surprisingly, I felt no alleviation from my burden.
After dealing with this stress and anxiety for nearly a year, I'd learned to handle it for the most part. In fact, other than the few people I'd told, you couldn't tell I was battling anything from the outside. But the ugly truth was, my life had become controlled by this anxiety and I had started to believe it was something I would deal with my entire life.
A few months ago, I sat in my doctor's office, explaining the situation to her, hoping for any help she could provide. Her solution was no surprise: anti-anxiety medication. I flirted with the idea for weeks, knowing that a solution was out there, but was it the solution? I have never been someone to take medication (I barely pop an Advil unless it's absolutely necessary), and I certainly didn't want to start now. This felt like defeat.
So I decided to pass on the pills and figure this out on my own. Since then, I wish I could say life has gotten magically better. It hasn't. It's still really hard. The heaviness that my grief and anxiety has added to my life is a struggle every day. Sure, some days are much better than others. There are days I feel 90% like my old self, but there are other days I struggle to make it through the day.
One thing I've come to realize is that there are certain events that trigger these emotions and hardships for me. Personally, a big trigger is my dad's birthday, September 17. My dad and I were born three days (and 26 years) apart, so for 24 years of my life, we would celebrate our birthdays together. Unfortunately now, each year during this week, I'm just reminded that we can't do that anymore, and I'm left with this feeling that life is entirely too overwhelming to me (I know, I know, I'm not the only one).
I honestly don't know if I will ever be able to call myself the "old Megan" 100% again, but I'd settle for 99% (I kinda like that 1% anyway). I know that a lot of prayer has helped me come so far over the past two and a half years, and continues to do so on a daily basis. I've also decided to start talking to someone that can help me understand my feelings, because let's be honest, I need all the help I can get there... feelings are not my specialty (I'm my father's daughter, sue me).
I'm sure all of you who have managed to make it to the end of this post are thinking this is a total over-share, and you're probably right. I pride myself in transparency and honesty, and honestly, the most valuable lesson I've learned throughout my walk the past couple of years is that sometimes your struggles can be someone else's lifesaver during a difficult time.