How Does Shutting Down Happen? Sadness.
How does shutting down happen? It happens as a result of chaos, of uncontrollable circumstances. It comes as a result of sadness and loss of hope. It happens while you are not noticing and it happens silently. In my case, it was the result of pain and stress from deaths of loved ones and unavoidable sadness. I don't say depression because people want to treat depression with pills. I was sad. So very sad.
I was just a drinker before I fell into my sadness. I, of course, was an over-drinker from the beginning. It was never one glass. It was always more than the person sitting next to me. But, my overindulgence did not send me into self medication. My sadness did. In 2010 I became really unhappy. I experienced job loss. I experienced relationship stress. I put on hold a wedding and family that I wanted because the pieces of my life weren't fitting. I started working toward a lonely career as an actuary. Tests and studying encompassed my life. I was pulling knowledge from 5 years back in higher level calculus and statistics and my brain was exhausted. The wine helped the knowledge come out of its depths and helped suppress how much I hated it. I was good at math/statistics. But, being good at something does not make it something you enjoy. In the meanwhile, people and animals around me were getting sick and dying. My labrador retriever, my grandmother, then two weeks later, my grandfather and my best friend. I could not handle it all. I cried on my own and learned to drink until I was OK on the inside and outside. I broke. But, I didn't know I was shutting down like I was. The wine helped me squash the feelings of sadness and guilt. It disguised how tired and broken I was.
Not all of the sadness came in the form of grief. It was mostly guilt. My best friend was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. It was an aggressive and painful brain cancer. We ignored it when we were together. I couldn't handle it. If we spoke about it, I cried and that was not good for her to see my pain when she was in so much herself. Slowly, she got worse and worse and our communcations grew shorter and less meaningful. I squashed the sadness with wine. In the midst of squashing the sadness and guilt for not recognizing the signs of cancer that were so blatantly obvious in hindsight, I started building more guilt by not being there for her when she needed me in sickness. Drink. I was not a good supportive best friend. Drink. I couldn't be that for her. Drink. I could not get over my guilt for not being there. Drink. There are no do-overs in life. Guilt will swallow you whole. It is easier to squash it than to face it. Drink.
But, here I am. I am facing my sadness. I am facing my guilt. I am facing pain, loss, chaos, frustration...and, I am allowing myself to be happy. But, even now I can tell you that sadness always exists and it does not go away. I feel sad about a million things every day. I cry and then I smile. Because I know that is what you are supposed to do. You are supposed to feel sadness. You are supposed to feel everything.