Diane, 28, is a legal assistant in Danbury, Conn. This is her story.
Growing up, I saw my family as being loving and healthy. Then I found out my brother, John [not his real name], was addicted to OxyContin pills, which led to cocaine, then heroin and finally his death at age 30. He became someone I didn't know anymore as his addiction grew year after year. I was scared to be home alone with him. I was scared to go home some days during lunch (he worked the night shift) because I didn't know what I would find.
In May 2013, I got the call that John had passed away at home. The state medical examiner came to my house and said he most likely passed away from a heart attack. I already suffered with anxiety -- not severe, but I would have panic attacks here and there for no reason. Hearing the words "heart attack" made me think, "If he can have one, so can I!"
So it began ... I would lie awake in bed thinking statements such as: "My heart will stop if I go to sleep." "I'm going to die from a heart attack, too." I even stopped going to the gym because I thought I'd have a heart attack during Spinning class. I began gaining weight, not sleeping, missing work because I couldn't even get out of bed. If I did go to work, I would sit at my desk pretending I was okay, but I was truly compressed by negative thoughts. After three months of these dark thoughts, I knew I had to do something to help myself.
Even though I had a great support system from my parents (who were also grieving), my wonderful boyfriend, extended family and friends, I needed a third party who knew nothing of my situation. I decided to seek out a psychologist who deals with grief, anxiety and depression. It was the best decision I have ever made! Her office is a place where I can just express my feelings, thoughts, emotions. Tears flow freely, and she will not judge, only educate and help me. Having that third party in my life made me see the entire grief process in a whole new light.
May 2014 marked a whole year since John's passing. My life is now for the better. Grief is hard. It will take a toll on you mentally, emotionally and physically, but with reaching out for help the light at the end of the tunnel for success is just a little brighter than it was before. I encourage anyone who is grieving a loved one to seek help, even if you feel you don't "need" it. There are others like you out in this world, and I am one of them.
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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
As told to Sarah Klein. This email interview has been edited for length and clarity.