Depression — No, You Can’t Just Go Rub Some Dirt On It

– Posted in: Chronic Pain, Depression, Getting Older, Grief, Growing Up, Tammy Thinks

Yesterday, I found out a friend of mine from college died. She was on a 5-mile run, collapsed right before the finish, and never woke up.

Depression, No you can't just go rub some dirt on itI feel terrible for her family. For her husband and three sons. For her parents. For her friends who are “her people” and will feel this the most. I wasn’t one of those people anymore. We were the mutual bridesmaids who exchanged cards on Christmas and hadn’t seen each other in years. In some ways, it feels wrong to claim her as a loss for any other reason than pure self-centeredness. But then, I suppose grief is all about selfishness. Our pain isn’t really for the person who dies. It’s all about how we feel because he or she isn’t around anymore.

This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to wax nostalgic about learning to appreciate every moment. And needing to live each day like it’s our last. And remembering to not sweat the small stuff. Then I’m supposed to end it all with a very inspiring line that ties in running and life. I’m sure I could figure something out…

But the fact is, last week, before all of this happened, I was in a deep depression. Like, deep, deep. It was the kind of dip where you don’t even cry because you don’t feel anything at all. You just want to watch movies or bad TV because then you can forget you’re you for a little while.

Put it this way — I didn’t even have the energy to write about how bad I felt.

If you’ve ever been in that place, you know that no amount of “positive talk” or “walks in the sunshine” or “life altering news about your friend dying” will shake you out of the dark. It’s a physical condition. In my case, I can actually feel my body sucking the life out of me.

So it didn’t take a sudden death to make me remember that life can change in a heartbeat. That I’m lucky to have what I have. That I could lose everything in the next minute. Trust me — I’ve got that lesson down pat.

So why am I even bothering to bring this up? I guess because now that I’m not in the deep, dark place, I don’t want people to think that my friend dying is what “snapped” me out of it. I want people to understand that depression isn’t something you can just think or wish your way out of. It’s not something that will go away if you just “look on the bright side” or write three things you’re grateful for in a journal every night.

The fact is that sometimes — most of the time — my body doesn’t do what I want it to do. I feel annoyingly fatigued. I have the unenviable option of choosing pain over pain-relief that in some ways makes me feel worse. And all of that tends to beat me down.

And sometimes the only way I get through those dark days is to hang on by my fingernails and remember that this too shall pass. That I’ve been there before and that I don’t always feel “this bad.” That I’m in a marathon, and this mile of the course just happens to be up a hill. And through the mud. And infested with mosquitos.

See. Told you I get a running metaphor in here somewhere.

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30 Comments… add one

Polly June 11, 2013, 12:34 am

One of the best descriptions of depression I’ve ever read. Been there, done that. And sometimes half the fingernails you’re hanging on with have broken.
And I want to punch everyone who says, “Cheer up” or any version of it.

Tammy June 17, 2013, 12:15 am

Yeah. I know people mean well. It’s kind of like the awkward thing at a funeral. But it really does fall flat.

Kathy June 11, 2013, 12:42 am

Thank you Tammy. This is a good post to validate those who have been or are there, and to hopefully help those who haven’t have an idea what to emotionally realize about their friends and loved ones who are suffering from depression. I’ve been in that deep well where you just go through what motions you absolutely have to and the “buck up” messages are about as possible lifting a car with one hand.

Tammy June 17, 2013, 12:16 am

I think the scary part is when you get to the point where even going through the motions is excruciating. I’m usually pretty good at just “getting through.” But when I can’t fake it anymore, then I know I’m in deep shit.

Sandy June 11, 2013, 6:16 am

Thanks for your post on depression. While I am sorry that you have it too, it’s always nice to know that I’m not the only one that goes through very dark times. I appreciate your candid comments about how it feels, and how the “snap out of it” comments are really not helpful in the least. Excellent post!

Tammy June 17, 2013, 12:19 am

Thanks Sandy. I’m really, really glad you told me that. I always feel sort of whiney and self-serving when I write stuff like this, so it’s good to know that it actually helps someone else.

Carol the long winded June 11, 2013, 6:31 am

this is why I hate those cheery “you choose your emotions in any situation”. Uh, not always and sometimes being Pollyanna would be a sign of mental illness honestly.

Tammy July 18, 2013, 10:54 am

I agreed wholeheartedly. Pollyanna’s scare me.

Susanne Nelson June 11, 2013, 7:57 am

Glad you are feeling better enough to write and share. So sorry for your loss and for your pain and depression. I can relate and know it’s no fun at all. You’re right, sometimes you just have to sit with it. In those darkest moments, at least you can know that things have to get better.

Tammy July 18, 2013, 10:55 am

Thanks Susanne. I know you can relate. It really is just a matter of sitting with it sometimes.

Verity June 11, 2013, 8:12 am

Hey friend…forget about the “do you want to talk” offer….how about I come pick you up some night, plop you on my couch, and you can join me and watch 4 episodes of Glee in a row and eat handfuls of peanut M & M’s. It makes me feel better…at least during.
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Tammy July 18, 2013, 10:57 am

Sometimes Glee (or whatever) is the only thing that gets me through the night. But then you know the feeling. And peanut M&M’s make almost everything better. xo

Cheryl S June 11, 2013, 9:10 am

I too know of what you speak. That depression is indeed mind-numbing and horrific and then I feel guilty for “wallowing” in it and for not being appreciative for all I have even though I am, but when I’m depressed it all falls down. So I hear you, and I’m here for you, and I wish us all out of it.

Tammy July 18, 2013, 10:58 am

Seriously. It’s enough that you’re sad. But then you have to beat yourself up for being sad. What a frickin’ disaster.

Thanks my friend.

Andrea June 11, 2013, 11:14 am

Your view – that dwelling in the sadness is just what ought to be done sometimes – is real, crushing, and one that I totally understand. How I relate to those days of choosing pain over numbness.

And I’m sorry to hear about your college friend. I hate that being left is always harder than leaving.
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Tammy July 18, 2013, 11:01 am

Probably why we understand each other so well, right? It’s hard to get it when you haven’t been there (although I appreciate the people who try).

rachel June 12, 2013, 11:44 am

I like this post and your honesty. I’m glad you are open enough to write about it. It sucks when people think if you just changed your attitude you could get over whatever is “bothering” you, if only it were that easy,right?
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Tammy July 18, 2013, 11:03 am

Attitude is everything!;) Yes, I wish it were that easy. I wish I could just change my behavior and make it all go away.

Judy June 14, 2013, 10:35 am

Tammy, that is such a good description of depression and I know that exact feeling. Thanks for having the courage to write about your struggle.
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Tammy July 18, 2013, 11:04 am

Thanks Judy. I’m glad to hear that you think I got it right. I don’t know how courageous I am. I usually just feel kind of whiny…:)

ACorporateWife July 7, 2013, 4:29 pm

A friend of mine is dealing with depression right now, after completing a year’s worth of treatment (chemo, radiation, mastectomy) for breast cancer. Her parents have not been supportive, literally asking her “what she has to be sad about,” because after all, she’s cancer free. I want them to read this post.

Tammy July 18, 2013, 11:05 am

Okay, that’s just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Chris July 18, 2013, 5:58 am

Tammy, thanks for sharing the link to this on my Facebook page. This is a great post. It gives validation to those of us who have ever felt like we “should” be able to get out of our “funk.” I go without writing for long stretches of time because I’m depressed. Part of me doesn’t want to write about anything but the “good” stuff, but mostly I just can’t. It’s good to get reminders sometimes that I’m not the only one.
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Tammy July 18, 2013, 11:08 am

Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I know exactly what you mean about only wanting to write about the good stuff. I feel like I bog people down with my complaining. Like I’m just a big whiner. It’s really hard to balance. The thing is, I feel like people get some amount of comfort and connection from posts like this. But I don’t want them to feel like I’m trolling for sympathy. That’s the tough part.
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Jessica January 22, 2014, 7:25 am

“And sometimes the only way I get through those dark days is to hang on by my fingernails, and remember that this too shall pass. That I’ve been there before and that I don’t always feel “this bad.” That I’m in a marathon, and this mile of the course just happens to be up a hill. And through the mud. And infested with mosquitos.” – This is amazing. I have struggled with depression my whole life, so I get it. I’m happy that you have this perspective and could write this. Sincerely.

elaine schoch January 22, 2014, 7:48 am

I’m all about hanging on by my fingernails, way too often. Good luck and glad the deep dark place has more sunshine today.

LindySez January 22, 2014, 9:22 am

You write so well about such a dark subject. I feel your pain. Sunshine Cheers!
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Elle January 22, 2014, 9:36 am

I’m basically one of those pollyannas that I know can be really annoying. But it’s my natural state, for the most part. Only once have I ever felt depression. Probably not that overwhelmingly dark and deep depression that you write about so compassionately Tammy, just a sad, lost all interest in life kind of place. In my case it turned out to have a physical cause, and with appropriate treatment I eventually stepped out into the sunshine again. I know I was lucky. I know I am blessed and I just loved the simplicity and honesty with which you wrote about your experiences. Thank you Tammy. ღ
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Cher January 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

Well done, Tammy! I was diagnosed with depression almost two years ago. I couldn’t stop crying and had no idea what was wrong with me. I did know enough to contact my doctor who was very kind. I did take medication but when I finally told my parents, I got “the look”. It was so awful because they didn’t understand that it is a chemical imbalance in the brain causing this. I am proud to say, I made it through and am no longer on meds. Thanks so much for touching on this subject because it is so hard to relate to it unless you’ve been through it!
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Vidya Sury January 22, 2014, 8:52 pm

Reminds me of that time after my Mom passed away – when people told me it would be okay. It isn’t. They said I’d get used to it. I am a long way from there and don’t care. They say I am crazy to still grieve. I am fine with grieving lifelong. Depression is a crazy place. And no, nobody can snap out of it.

Hugs, Tammy!
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