It’s not something really discussed is it? The big D word. DEPRESSION.

The sleepless nights, the not eating, the binge eating, wanting to die, etc. The symptoms of depression are surprisingly similar to the side effects of grief. But really not actually that surprising due to the fact that this is a horrific thing to have happen to you.

People always tell me “You are so brave to discuss this kind of thing.” I don’t think it should be a big thing to discuss your mental illness, it should be normal. It will still be brave to tell someone, but it shouldn’t be such a big deal. You should be able to be like “I’m depressed” and for everyone around you to be like “bro, we are so here for you,” instead all of this social stigma, people telling other people to just cheer up, telling them it’s in their heads, etc. People shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.

If you broke a leg, you wouldn’t be umming and aahing about whether you tell your friends that you broke your leg. Hushed tones about what happened, and how you are feeling. Instead you rock up to work with your crutches and tell anyone who will listen what happened and get people to sign it. But you make that a mental illness and it’s “just go outside”. They used to say that about TB, and look what happened to most of those people.

Depression, whether people want to believe it or not, is a huge part of our society and most of the time it’s not about ‘cheering up’ or doing some exercise.

“In the 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey, one in six New Zealand adults (16%, or an estimated 582,000 adults) had been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives (including depression, bipolar disorder and/or anxiety disorder).” (Stats here)

So it’s a pretty fucking big deal and of those people, I’m 100% sure, at least one of those people is grieving at the same time. (Get it? It’s me!)

There is also a fine line between grief and depression. A lot of the signs are the same, a lot of the feelings, and actions, but the difference, I guess is that grief slowly but surely starts to fade, just a little at a time. It’s been 11 months since Riley died, and by now I hoped that the tears would be less frequent. The story would be easier to tell and the nights seem less lonely. And for some bits of it, it has. Instead I have feelings of being a freak, wanting to leave this nightmare behind. Wish that I could just stop feeling so tired and angry all the time. Yes the anger stays. The nightmares stay. They all stay, it is just slightly less painful.

So what is the difference between grief and depression?

Grief includes sadness/mourning, crying, loss of appetite and sleep, poor concentration, low energy/fatigue, remembering the happy/sad memories, and of course, feelings of guilt.

Also with time, these feelings subside as you gain some sort of weird normality. And some of the feelings are symptoms of depression, but times by like a million.

These can include but are not limited to feeling guilt, suicidal, agitation, having low self-esteem, feeling worthless, powerless, helpless and other ‘ness’ feelings, not being able to concentrate or finding that you don’t enjoy doing the things that usually you love doing, and of course, feeling really fucking tired, all of the time.

When you have depression these symptoms are long lasting, and don’t give you a moment’s breath. You don’t feel like you will ever be happy again.

The main difference is when you are grieving you still have the happy memories of the one you loved more than anything. You still look back with love and hope. But when you are depressed you have trouble looking back on the memories with happiness, but instead you look back with emptiness and distress. You remember the bad things.

The grieving period works itself out in the end with some persistence from you, but in the case where you have depression as well, it becomes so much more complicated. Trying to work through the pain of grief when you have zero control over your depression is a nightmare. It becomes slower and more tangled and torturous. It often feels like one step forward makes you take two steps back.

For me? I had depression well before the death of Riley. I have never had medication for the situation (before now, but that’s another story), though I had a councillor when I was younger, and I dealt with it. It went away (so to speak) over time. I know the feelings of depression, I could feel my grief turning to depression as it happened. I am still grieving in amongst the feeling of utter despair and depression, but now it is so much more complicated to try and work through it. So many different factors.

All I can say on this one is grieving is so normal for people like us, but if it starts to affect you more or longer than you think it should, it is best to look into medical advice. They know best.


Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.

— Andrew Solomon


“Don’t you know your grin has always been my sunshine”

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