Hello. My name is Phil and I battle depression.
What I am about to say is both difficult to say and strange for me to admit: I’ve been depressed. It is difficult because for a long time I didn’t know what was happening to me or why. I felt pain, I felt sadness, I felt guilt, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It is strange because Depression, or Clinical Depression, is my every day state of affairs. Little d depression isn’t. Strictly speaking what I am experiencing is death, death of a very dear relationship, but the symptoms of that death are depression and sorrow.
As many already know, my wife is divorcing me. Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know. Ask her. She left last May on a mutually agreed upon separation and the very next time I saw her, November, she was submitting paperwork for divorce. We have barely spoken, not through lack of my trying, so I really have no idea what is going on or why this is happening. All I do know is that it is happening. Somehow, somewhere, the relationship died. That is a tremendous burden that I have been bearing for almost a year now. But ever since the divorce papers were filed, I’ve felt something different, something more. At first I didn’t know that I was bearing it, or what I was bearing, or that it was different than my day to day depression, but now I’ve come to recognize it for what it is: little d depression.
I didn’t know big D Depressed people could feel the depression of ordinary folk, the fleeting, down in the dumps blues. In fact, I’ve written quite a bit about how large D Depression doesn’t go away, is much more intense, and is a constant pain in the head. But to experience little d depression on top of that is new for me. To grieve a death of a relationship is new for me.
Back in the day I lost my grandmother to indifference. As far as I know she is still alive physically, but the last time I saw her was 20 years ago when I was 6. One day she just stopped coming around. I was young, carefree, and not terribly close to her, so I can’t say it bothered me all that much. Sure, it was sad to have a grandmother who didn’t care about you, but I don’t remember grieving over her. She just ended in my life.
Around the same time (I think) my great, great grandmother died. I remember my older brother and my mother being very upset, but again, I was young and I didn’t really know her so I had little grief. My first real brush with the grief of death was when Larry died. Who was Larry? Larry was an older gentlemen who lived on the street where I grew up as a little boy. He was an old, crusty salt of a former sailer and a surrogate grandfather. I loved hanging out with Larry and he loved to spoil me and my brothers with ice cream from the ice cream truck and we had all sorts of fun together. He used to decorate his house outrageously for Christmas and always was an interesting person to be around. Larry died from lung cancer brought on by a lifetime of smoking. Larry I mourned, but I remember being more angry that he was taken from me than sad that he was gone.
The first time my sadness outweighed my anger was when my grandfather died. Grandpa Curwin, my maternal grandfather, was a constant in my life and I loved him so much. I still remember how he smelled, how he smiled, and his loving affection. I used to love to talk to him and wheedle out stories of his time in the Army during World War II, or stories about his many automobiles and girlfriends. My grandfather was loved by many people, and he was such a nice, wonderful person it isn’t hard to see why. But he died suddenly of many things. His was the first funeral I ever attended and to see him lying in that casket is something I will never forget. I was angry, but I was also so very sad to know that I would never hear his voice again or see that twinkle in his eye or smile on his lips. He was gone, and I had to say goodbye.
The death of a relationship is different altogether. The person still lives. The feelings still exist. But the relationship is deemed to be over and there is nothing you can do about it. Unlike a physical death, where there is an acceptance of the circle of life, a grave to visit, and a body to see to sink home the reality, here the vibrancy and immediacy to life still exists. The person lives, and breathes, and laughs, and continues, but is no longer accessible. You want to accept it, you want to feel the reality, but every time the person is seen, or heard of, the heart wants to say “they are alive, run, embrace them and be joyful! death has ended!” only it hasn’t and you can’t. There is little possibility of real mourning. There is only the pain and separation. And thus my depression.
I had to have my therapist explain what I was feeling and why, and fortunately she is wise and experienced and knew almost immediately what I was describing. Still, it was a revelation to me. To be ordinarily depressed is new. Usually I am a happy, upbeat kind of guy. According to my therapist, my mother, and most others I talk to about how I feel, these little d depressed feelings will pass. I will come out the other side and I will be ok again. Grief lasts but a moment in the long term of life, so does loss, and where one relationship ends, there is always the possibility that another will begin, or so they say. I had just become used to the idea that my sadness, my mental inertia, and the dimness that is my Depression would be with me always. I didn’t know I could also get depressed, but it is an encouragement to know that depression lifts, and that I can return to normal.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I am coming to accept there is nothing I can do about it, and that the only actions I can take are those that I do anyway: get out of bed, do something, take care of myself and my pup, and get through the day. Anything more is a good day, and while you are depressed through grief over death, you don’t have good days, especially when you are also Depressed.
Still, it is nice feeling to know that in being ordinarily depressed, some part of me is truly ordinary. Life is strange and wonderful and dirty and confusing and sticky and bad and good and full of feelings. No matter what you feel, or why, remember that. When you feel you are alive, and never more so than right in the feelings.
To read what else I have written about depression search this blog for “depression”.