Posted on 1 February 2018 by Michael Dahl

Good grief!

Yesterday’s visit with my therapist did not unfold as I thought it would.

I thought my therapist and I would talk about whether to accept the place I am in relation to low- to mid-level Anxiety on a daily basis. I have found ways to manage the Anxiety and have It occupy less of my days than before … and more days with low Anxiety, not mid- to high to panic attack-levels.

But that’s not what we talked about. We talked about identity change, loss, and grieving.

There are many ways your identity can change. You may become a parent. You may change jobs. You may be going through a divorce.

Some changes can be very positive. Others may fill you with an intense sense of loss.

Well, as I was describing my situation, it became clear that while Anxiety was still a problem, the major issue that I was talking about was that I’ve been experiencing a lot of sadness due to loss … the loss of my former self. And, thus, I am grieving.

I know I’ve written much about this before, but here’s a refresher: We all have to deal with loss and sometimes an identity change in the process.

For instance, you may experience a health problem which forces you to drastically change your diet and daily practices. Depending on the extent of changes, you may feel as if your identity has changed somewhat or even a lot. You may find yourself cut off from certain social ties because you can’t go out to eat with friends who regularly gather at your once-favorite restaurant. Perhaps you have to quit smoking because of this health issue. Again, in addition to that loss, you lose some of your social ties. On top of all that, you absolutely hate your new diet and the attention you have to place on certain daily practices.

Your identity has changed, and because of that you may grieve that loss. The grief may be most intense at the beginning. But that grief may be resurrected at certain times — when you walk by your once-favorite restaurant, when you smell the smoke of others smoking cigarettes. This grief may also come at you at truly unexpected times and for quite some time in the future.

The analogy is not perfect, but almost three years ago I had a major months’ long bout with serious Depression and Anxiety. All my meds changed. And the truly trauma-inducing experience changed my orientation to the world and my place in it. Some things I used to never be afraid of became major sources of Anxiety. Triggers turned on that I thought I had long healed myself of. I made it through, but Depression and Anxiety gave me a beating before They were forced to back off because of meds and brain tricks I’ve had to teach myself.

In the process part of my identity changed. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable just blurting out in this blog post all the ways I changed. But plenty of things are different about me. Many of the changes I am not pleased with. Some of the changes are even good … although that is hard to admit sometimes.

All this is to say, my therapist noticed I was talking more about acceptance of my Anxiety where it is at (at least for now). But what I was really talking about — grappling with — was loss, sadness, and grief.

We used my whole visit to talk about loss and grief and how natural that was. My therapist didn’t give me ways to escape that grief. She just noted it was natural and often healthy.

Good grief!