What is happening to me?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I was always good in school. Even if I didn’t review all my notes on the lecture, I always get high scores. My friends often acknowledge this ‘gift’ of mine (that’s what they call it). I also enjoyed doing home works and usually after checking the answers in school, I always get perfect scores. After my father’s death in February just this year, I started losing control over myself. I began to lose interest in all the things I do.
I started failing in tests. But what scares me most is that… I didn’t care anymore. Usually when I don’t get the grade that I want, I feel so bad all day. Most of the time nowadays, I feel sleepy and light-headed, as if I’m in a dream. As if I’m just floating, doing my work absentmindedly, just for the sake of finishing all the tasks that had been assigned to me.
I usually like to write. I write all sorts of literature – in English (not my mother tongue). I had perfect grammar. Essays, poems, short stories, novels… I have a rich vocabulary, but now I find it hard to put words together. Just as I am writing this paragraph, words aren’t forming in my head. I have to pause once in a while to check if I’m not typing in anything stupid. Writing had always been spontaneous to me. But now I find it extremely hard to get my point across.
I also have a problem with reciting in class. Since words aren’t forming in my head, I don’t know what to say whenever the teacher asks me a question. I feel so embarrassed not being able to answer her question when my classmates could easily state their own opinions. It’s like my brain suddenly shut down – somewhat dead and unwilling to think.
I also became forgetful. After reading books, (even my favorite fiction books), I tend to forget what happened in the story in days time. I forget the names of some minor characters (which never happened to me because I LOVE reading fiction books and I treasure every little detail in the story). I am a college freshman. I meet new people everyday… and I also forget their names easily. At night I get frustrated… What can’t I remember their names? Sometimes, I have to close my eyes and think really hard what the thing that I was holding was called. I was holding a pencil then.
I also liked being alone. Sometimes, when a friend says hi to me along the school corridors, I pray to God that he won’t stop and chat with me. I just didn’t like talking at that time. Alarmingly, I feel that way more and more everyday. I didn’t want to get out of my bed every morning. I just wanted to do absolutely nothing.
I still have many problems, like my appetite. Sometimes I feel so hungry, and then the next day I didn’t want to eat or drink anything. The next day, I want to buy everything in the canteen. The next day I just wanted to vomit until my stomach bleeds. I don’t have anorexia, nor did I ever cared so much about my weight. I don’t know if it’s because I’m stressed that eating has been troublesome for me.
Could you help me? I don’t know if these are all caused by my father’s death. I had some of these problems before he died, but they intensified after he did. The forgetfulness is the worst. I just feel so frustrated not knowing what is happening to me.

A: I’m so very sorry for the loss of your father and for the emotional turmoil you find yourself in now. I’m very glad you wrote. What you are describing may be what is called a “grief reaction.” People grieve differently. How and how long we grieve depends on our relationship to the person who has died, our own personality, and our coping skills. About a third of grieving people develop symptoms of depression in the months immediately following the death. About 15 percent continue to find it difficult to function a year or more later. Memory loss, lethargy, and inability to concentrate are common symptoms. So are gastrointestinal problems and problems with eating, much as you described them.

Grieving eople have told me that they just want to world to stop for a while so that they could get their bearings again without worrying about what other people think or having to fulfill responsibilities. Unfortunately, there’s no way to do that. But you can get some good support to help you through the grieving process. Grief work involves coming to terms with the loss, adjusting to what it means to be without that person in your life, and either enhancing current relationships or making new ones that fulfill at least some of the roles the deceased person had in your life.

Many people find it helpful to join a bereavement support group. Sharing with others who are going through the same kinds of experiences can be particularly comforting. Other people look for a counselor who speciailizes in grief work. Still others turn to their spiritual leaders for emotional support and practical help.

You didn’t mention other members of your family. I hope there are close relatives with whom you can talk about your father and his meaning in your life. Sharing memories, crying together, and talking about how to go on without him can be comforting and helpful.

It’s always a good idea to see a doctor to make sure there isn’t a medical problem causing some of the distress. I doubt that you are ill but it’s wise to check. I don’t think you are going crazy. I do think you need an assist to help you mourn and start to move on.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Dec 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). What is happening to me?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 2, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/12/28/what-is-happening-to-me/

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