Tuneful Tuesdays: Crying

I wrote yesterday of including more positive and uplifting posts in the future.

Then today happened.

So, here.

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Feel Anything

When most people hear the word “depression,” they equate it with sadness. If someone is depressed, the reasoning goes, they must be really sad all the time. The key, then, is to find out how to make the depressed person happy. Easy enough, right?

Well, not always.

Just type the words “I feel dead inside” into your search engine and see how many results come up. A great majority of people who experience depression report not being able to feel any emotion at all as being one of their primary symptoms. They don’t feel happy, but they don’t feel sad either. They aren’t at peace, but they can’t muster much anger about anything. They don’t feel emotional pain. They become numb to emotions.

People often wonder at the number of those among the depressed who also have various addictions. The practice of cuttingcutting is rarely understood. Researchers have often pointed out links between depression and high-risk behaviors. All of this would seem to run counter-productive to a depressive ever getting any better, since all of these behaviors usually result in making the sufferer feel guilty or ashamed and can even result in physical harm.

The obvious question, then, is, why?

There’s a line in the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” has a line in it I always found very poignant: “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel.” Sometimes the action is not intended to accomplish anything except producing a feeling of some sort. Any feeling, whether it’s pain or pleasure or a high of some kind or even some type of near-death experience. Someone with depression may make a decision that can only be described as stupid simply to experience a jolt in their emotions.

Of course, depression cannot be cited as a reason for every not-so-good decision in life. Every day, though, someone wakes up feeling absolutely numb to the world around them. Nothing brings them enjoyment. Nothing makes them grieve. Nothing makes them laugh. Nothing makes them cry. They desperately need something, but they don’t know what it is, so they fling themselves at anything they think might make them care again.

So for everyone who believes the key to conquering depression is to just figure out how to make everyone happy is missing the point. The solution is to make people excited to be alive again. To give them a purpose for getting out of bed every day. To replace whatever harmful behavior they are using to cope with something beneficial to them.

Sometimes it’s not just a matter of “taking a happy pill” and “turning that frown upside-down.” It’s about becoming a person again. There is no equation for that, and the journey will look different for everyone. Judgement will have to be replaced with mercy and understanding, because they are going to get it wrong along the way. The trick, though, won’t be to just keep going. It will be to just keep feeling.

Recovery

For lack of a better way to put it, I spun out at the end of last week. Situations were pressing on my nerves, and I went to bed Thursday evening nearly nauseous. I lost my perspective, handled things poorly, covered things up, and lost my peace. I regained a little of it yesterday, and then woke up today without it again. I stood in front of the mirror and called myself names. I just wanted to be alone, which is very difficult to achieve in a house with a wife and five children. I escaped for a two-mile walk, but not before irritating pretty much every member of my family with my rotten attitude.

I’m leveling out a little this afternoon, but my stomach still feels weird, and I’m still wrestling with what upset me in the first place. I headfeel angry and stupid and foolish and hurt and weak. This isn’t exactly new for me. I’ve been here before. But I haven’t been at this level in a while. I remembered my counseling, took my medication, exercised, prayed, even poured my guts out to a friend over some burgers and fries Friday night, but I couldn’t shake that old ghost. I knew I had messed up, and the thought crept back into my head that I was always going to mess things up because that’s simply what I do. It’s in my DNA.

Thankfully, I’m slowly learning that recovery does exist when these feelings hit, but I’m also painfully discovering that I have to own blame and accept consequences when I do idiotic things. And while my grace tends to extend pretty far when it comes to other people, I have virtually zero tolerance for myself. I expect the hammer to fall on me because I deserve it, but at the same time I really don’t want it to because I’m a coward. I scheme and I plot to mitigate the damages, all while chastising myself for repeating the same old mistakes over and over again.

Recovery from depression can be a vicious and unforgiving process. Feelings have to be acknowledged before they can be dealt with. I mean, if I broke my leg but I kept insisting that the bone was intact, I would never heal properly because I would keep trying to walk around on it as if it was a healthy limb. As crappy as it feels, there is a necessity in admitting fear, anxiety, sadness, addiction, and any other number of emotions that commonly accompany depression. The key is to not wallow in them or just accept them as states that are always just going to be. A daily process and battle exists to achieve victory, but no one should ever claim it is easy.

I forgot all this over weekend and sunk into a hole. I wanted to think of myself as “cured,” when wellness is a process I’ll probably be walking out for the rest of my days on this earth. I gave wounds power over me, and I let my emotions get away from me. To be honest, I don’t feel a whole lot better today, but I have no choice but to keep pushing. It recently dawned on that in certain areas of my life, I’m not even sure what “normal” is, but I know it exists.

fergusonComedian and actor Craig Ferguson once offered a tremendously accurate description of how suffering in a disease is often what promotes healing when he said, “… What mattered was that when treated as a disease, those who suffered from it were most likely to recover.” Even though Ferguson was addressing alcoholism, I believe his words ring true for depression as well. Recovery doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it downright sucks. It’s necessary, though, as we progress through life, whether we have a broken bone or a clouded mind. I just wish it was a faster process.