Sadness is not depression
When we are dealing with depression, many of our emotions are muted or more likely we are not even aware of them. All of us experience the pain of depression differently, but a common theme I hear repeatedly is the lack of any emotion. An emotional numbness. A complete lack of interest in any activities, any person, or pretty much anything in life. In my experience, depression robs a person of the ability to feel or maybe to feel “accurately.”
Well today was a pretty good example of what life without depression looks like when you are faced with difficult news. As I started my day today, my assumption was that the calls I had scheduled would go as planned, the tasks I had to complete would get done, and life would do what it does. My first jolt came this a.m. when my phone rang, and it was a guy who used to come to Face It that I have not talked to in a couple of years. I could not take his call now, so he left me a message. Upon retrieving his message, I was hit with this, “Hey Mark, it’s been a while, but I am hoping you can give me a call as I could really use an ear.”
The message seemed benign, but I called him right back. The ensuing 30 minutes were filled with pain and sadness as he detailed the dramatic turn his health has taken, and he is currently battling severe stomach problems along with a yet to be diagnosed brain condition that has left him with severe difficulty getting through the most basic of tasks. All the while he has recently gotten engaged and is trying to gain greater custody of his 2 young children. While I was present for him in the conversation, when I hung up, I simply felt sad. Not depressed, but sad.
As I was processing this man’s challenges I headed off to the gym because a good workout always helps clear my head. As I entered the gym, I was approached by a very good friend of mine who I could see looked troubled. This friend said, “hey can we talk?” As we sat down, his voice trembling, he related to me that he has been diagnosed with Stage 4 bladder cancer. His treatment regimen will be difficult, and his prognosis is not good. As he talked, I fought back my tears to remain present in the conversation. That did not work so well, and I cried. He said to me, “hey don’t feel sorry for me” to which I told him that I was sorry for what he had to deal with, and my emotions were mine. Emotions of sadness and loss.
Now I can certainly think of many other ways to spend the day than to have two people I care about share their serious medical conditions with me, but I will say that today I fully experienced life. In both instances, beyond the fear and sadness in our conversations, there was laughter, talk of optimism, and a promise to support one another. There were moments of recollections of the friendships we have with one another and reflections of why we trust each other. And I received the greatest gift of all, trust from others. These men went out of their way to share their challenges with me and for that I am grateful.
My takeaway from today is to continue to live each day with gratitude and humility. I do not know what tomorrow holds and I want to be present each day as best as I am able. I am grateful for the recovery path I have been on with the depression I suffered from and I am grateful that while today I felt sadness, fear, and had tears flowing, I felt those emotions and that is a sign of life!