I’m Just Tired: When I Discounted Depression

By Kathryn Rose WoodFebruary 5, 2018

When I got the phone call about Preston, I was woken up amid deep sleep several hours before my standard morning alarm was to ring. The news was so nightmarish it felt like a dream. Suicide? Unlikely. In my family? You’re mistaken. And Preston… out of all of us 10 siblings? He’s always been even-keeled, emotionally stable. He doesn’t ask for anyone’s help; he never seems to need it. He’s fine, this is just a sick joke…or a dream. I even called him after the news, sent him a text telling him to reply back, so sure I had imagined it in my stupefied haze. But it wasn’t a dream, and I sometimes wonder if the intense craving for sleep following Preston’s suicide was my subconscious response to being jolted awake to the news of his death.

As many who have encountered grief can attest, the Kubler-Ross Stages of Grief are all-but-guaranteed to transpire when processing a loved one’s death. However, the ways in which denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance all occur are unpredictable, elusive. The intensity of each stage depends entirely on the person experiencing it and the event itself; it’s not atypical to experience a stage more than once during the grief process, and there’s no defined period for how long each stage might last. My initial shock and denial lasted for nearly three months before becoming depression. Even as the depression took hold, I re-encountered denial and shock—but this time, it was directed at myself. My internal script was the same: “I’m not depressed, I’m just tired. Preston isn’t coming back, I know this now. I’ve accepted this, and there’s no basis for any depression to occur within me. Everything is as okay as it will be, and we all just have to keep going. I’m not depressed. I’m just…tired.”

What happens when you’re tired all the time? For me, it meant withdrawing from numerous social communities because I couldn’t muster the energy to laugh, fake a smile, or respond about how I was doing for the millionth time. It meant isolating from my family, who were encountering their own unique grief processes, because I couldn’t stand to keep talking about “what happened” with them. It meant no appetite, but continuous weight gain because when I did eat, I chose the easiest food to consume and never followed my newfound convenience diet with any sort of physical movement. What was perhaps the most indicative of the fatigue engulfing me was my complete loss of interest in music. Despite a lifelong passion for songwriting, playing music, and a career in music therapy coupled with weekly performance gigs, I wrote one song, “Lullaby (to Preston),” the week after Preston died, and spent the next several months avoiding listening to music, let alone writing it. It required more creative and emotional energy than I could manage, and I was “just…tired.”

Major sleep pattern changes, vanished appetite, social withdrawal, loss of interest…I was checking all the boxes that would identify someone with depression on a clinical Mental Status Examination. Yet, I insisted—to others, sure, but most vehemently to myself—that I wasn’t depressed. “I need a break. I’m just…tired.”

But I didn’t feel better with a “break.” Four months into life without Preston, I felt overwhelmed with every task, from deciding on clothes to wear in the morning to thoughtfully signing a birthday card. Sleep became an enemy, because the thrill that once came with going to bed was replaced with the anxiety of knowing I would wake up the next day.

While it wasn’t the pivotal event that motivated me to seek help, co-writing a song, “Free,” with a beloved musical confidant did help me to feel less alone, and to admit that this was more than being “tired.” Kristen, a practicing clinical music therapist like myself, had also lost her brother to suicide shortly after I lost Preston. We could not have been aligned more similarly in the aftermath of our griefs, and the reprieve in sharing social space with her was what I had longed for: No explanations necessary, no well-meaning, but anxiety-inducing, questions about how we were holding up, no attempts to deflect the conversation had to be made. It was okay to be tired, overwhelmed, withdrawn, and simply, sad. So, when we were paired through a songwriting group to write together—which, admittedly, was a lofty project given our emotionally-fatigued states at that time—the collaboration flowed effortlessly.

Kristen came to the session with lyrics that had permeated her mind since her brother passed:

In a room, in a house,

where no one sees,

in a city, in a place,

where I am free…

Almost as soon as she shared her words, the song was finished. We both identified intensely with needing a safe space to feel our hurt, our sorrow, without questions from others, and to finding amnesty from the pervasive mental anguish that accompanied each passing day. The very first lines of “Free” begin:

I can’t explain where I’ve been,

and though everyone wants to understand,

it doesn’t mean they comprehend…

they can’t grasp where I am.

We didn’t fault anyone for being unable to empathize, but at least in this musical moment we were able to relate how heavy it felt to bear this unique sadness. And as we wrote the song’s final lyrics:

I thought I could find relief in my sleep,

but I’m not safe even in my dreams…

I was forced to admit that the mental script I’d been defaulting to was never true. I was not tired. I did not need a break. I was deeply depressed, and if I tried to keep going it alone, I was going to break. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please visit our FIND HELP page for local resources.

You can watch the music video for “Free” here.

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Comments (4)

  1. Nikki

    This story hit home hard. My mom gave up the fight and I have never been the same. I also was in denial of being depressed, and just made excuses to everyone just so I wouldn’t face the truth as well. Self-harming wasn’t a cry for help to me. It was a coping mechanism. It didn’t sink in until I was standing in my bathroom with a bottle of pills ready to end it all. After being in ICU, admitted to a mental health facility, and counseling hearing someone say it aloud made it real. I have depression. I will have days where I cant push myself to do the things I need to do, or may have to call in sick because I just cant handle what that day consists of. Depression isn’t pretty, but its also not like what the sterotypes have made people believe. I am still a person…things still make me laugh, I still love to draw, I don’t lay around in the dark day after day. I am still human and my depression doesn’t define me

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We are so sorry that you lost your mom and that you’ve struggled through so much. We know the fight isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. And you’re right, depression does not define you.

      We’re so glad you’re still with us and enjoying the parts of life that bring you joy and laughter. It’s okay to have hard days, but we have so much hope for you and all and we’re so proud of you for how far you’ve come.

      If you need help or someone to talk to right now, we list resources and help lines here: https://twloha.com/find-help/local-resources/.

      If you’d like some encouragement from our team, please email us at [email protected]. We’d love to send some your way.

      We’re rooting for you!

      Reply  |  
  2. Lara

    You’re so lucky you’re not alone. After my gramma passed in 2018, she was the only person who supported me. You can’t fill an empty space, you can’t replace that person who is now gone.
    I have been alone for a long time. I’m tired too.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA


      We are so sorry for your loss. The grief and pain of losing someone are very tough things to experience. And while no one can replace your grandmother, we hope there are other people who can care for and support you as well.

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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