A functional life

Even cats get the blues.

Even cats get the blues.

Those of us with chronic depression know well how that feeling of hopelessness can take its toll. Add a terminal and/or degenerative illness to the mix, and it’s easy to see why someone with seemingly everything could take his own life.

I’ve put off writing about this because it is such a personal subject, but here goes. And sorry, but this won’t be humorous.

I wish I could say I was surprised when I heard that Robin Williams committed suicide, but I wasn’t. Though mental illness in comedians is likely not nearly as prevalent as some people think, people with such outsized personalities as Williams are often hiding deep emotional and psychological pain. The fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s shortly before his death makes his choice not to live with the emotional and physical pain more understandable.

I won’t bore you with facts and figures, but will instead tell you how depression affects me in hopes that it will bring a bit more understanding of what people like me deal with every day. My experience won’t be everyone else’s, because depression can affect people in many different ways.

Until a few years ago, I’d always been a functional depressive, even though I didn’t know it. I always tamped down whatever I was feeling and barreled on through whatever I had to do, and I did it well. I found it hard to motivate myself at home, but just reasoned that I was tired and that any anger or frustration I was feeling was just because of my job or some other irritant.

However, especially after I shattered my humerus in my right arm five and a half years ago, my functionality began to noticeably decrease, and it became even harder to do even simple things, like vacuum. I was angry at myself and felt like I was in a ravine I couldn’t escape. A couple of years later, my regular doctor decided to do hospice care full-time, so I ended up with a new doctor, and that turned out to be a blessing.

With her came a new perspective, and a drive to figure me out.

Not worried here; I didn't know any better.

Not worried here; I didn’t know any better.

My mom says I’ve pretty much always been a worrier, and that’s probably true. Looking back now, I realize I’ve been depressed for most of my life. When my doctor decided to test her theory that I was suffering from depression, the improvement I had confirmed to both of us that, because I’d always felt that way, I didn’t realize I could feel like a somewhat normal person.

Depression had always been my normal before, and I had “helpful” people tell me all the time that I’d feel better if I exercised since it was a natural anti-depressant. For some people it works, but for me, not so much, especially as it has a bad habit of triggering IBS flares. Believe me, when you continually have to run to the bathroom in the middle of a workout, it tends to make you more depressed.

I know medication is not right for everyone, but my functionality returned once we figured out the right combination (and discovered I had IBS). Yes, I still have low periods. When I’m having an especially bad period of depression, I feel like I’m running in circles or wading through molasses and can’t make any progress, no matter how hard I try. Being aware that it’s happening, though, helps immensely and makes me stop what I’m doing and assess how best to move forward.

Depression runs in my family, but I didn’t really realize that for a long time as so many of us have gone untreated. I know my depression will probably never go away, but I also know that I can feel better as long as I’m willing to try. Perhaps medication won’t always be the thing that helps most (and I hope that I can get to that point), but had I not been willing to try it in the first place, I might not even be here now to be goofy for you.

Appreciating the simple things helps me.

I’m glad I’m here to appreciate the simple things.


2 thoughts on “A functional life

  1. Thanks for this one, Brenda. So many of us fight depression and expend whatever energy we can dredge up on making other people believe we’re all right. If Robin Williams helped increase the understanding of depression, that might be his most worthy contribution of all.


  2. Thanks, Rita. As sad as I am that he’s gone, if it helps others get the help they need, I think he would appreciate that.
    This was a really hard one to write, for obvious reasons.


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