If you look around at the losses in the job market, the crush of the housing industry, the financial woes of the car industry; and, any personal events in your life, it’s no wonder the slide into despair is common place for many today. As one of our clients found himself on that downward spiral, he related this series of events to us. We’ll call him Ed and illustrate the events, with his permission, that caused him to fall into depression and despair.
Ed is the owner of a small residential construction company in CA, married for 18 years with two teenagers and has a huge yellow Labrador named Sadie. Ed told us, “In the last two years I watched the private housing market decline in the demand for my company’s personalized remodeling services, consequently impacting my overall livelihood. As I struggled to gain additional business, I had to travel to other parts of the state causing me to be away from my family. On one of those trips, my wife phoned to inform me that Sadie, our family dog, had been struck by a car and fatally wounded. I was surprised at the deepness of loss I felt. We had had Sadie for twelve years. When I returned home the following week, I was called by the ER in Lake Tahoe informing me that my father was there with a massive heart attack. Before I could drive to his bedside, he passed away. With this series of events, I found myself in the depths of despair. I felt I couldn’t get out or above it. I couldn’t cope anymore. I felt helpless.”
What Ed was experiencing is not exceptional for those that have had a series of traumatic events, especially with the events of death. He had become pessimistic about the construction market, but that does not lead directly to despair. Pessimism only fuels the negativity about a set of problems or specific event of injustice such as, the loss of monetary value or personal defeat.
Despair is the overwhelming feeling that your whole life is lost and can come over you like a crashing wave. Despair is the experience of helplessness and the lack of hope, often seen by others as depression. Some of the symptoms of despair:
• An uncontrollable emotional response to loss resulting in anguish
• Sudden bouts of sobbing, the physical response to suffering
• Physical pain in the chest or back with involuntary muscular contractions
• Howling or ranting at God or others in response to the wave of intense grief
• Sense of being ungrounded, adrift, or abandoned
• Constant inquiry to the “fairness” of individual treatment, striking out against it
The road out of despair is not quick, but can be decreased by using any of these options:
• Conduct a sincere inventory of your behavioral response to the loss, identifying the unhealthy responses to despair
• Methodically disprove each irrational belief holding you in despair
• Seek help to assist you in dealing with your irrational beliefs openly such as, a parent, a trusted relative or friend, a spiritual advisor, or a healthcare professional
• Give permission to yourself to experience the loss fittingly, adjusting to the changes of how life will be now
• Try not to be flawless in your response to loss; the human experience is as varied as the number of pebbles on the earth.
“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise within you, a challenge to life; and, the promise of future accomplishments.” Gustave Flaubert