It’s always a challenge for me to distinguish grief and sadness from depression. I have to ask myself: is this grief? Is this appropriate sadness for some loss? Or am I actually depressed, and should do something about it, if I can? Today I am very sad because I gave up doing something I really wanted to do, but I had to acknowledge that I can’t do it because of the arthritis in my neck and shoulder and hands, and the fact that the course I had signed up for begins at 8 am. In order to get up at 8 am I would have to take my meds at 6 pm, but that would mean missing the important evening practice sessions. I cancelled, and now I am overcome with sadness. I hope I can use the time I would have spent taking the course to go somewhere beautiful in my new camper van…but this comic of Clay’s describes me to a “T” most of the time. A lot of it comes from the combination of being depressed and the enormous amount of trauma I’ve endured both in my personal life, and in my role as a pediatric emergency physician, seeing and attending to so many tragedies…so many times when I had to tell parents and loved ones, “I’m sorry…we did everything we could do, but we couldn’t save your….” You have to become numb, or you’ll just go instantly crazy. I never cried one tear during those days and nights, but I was afraid to go to sleep because of the dreams…and my only friends were also doctors…sound familiar? Like war veterans. We were on the battle front of life and death, and the PTSD is just the same as war veterans. We are the wounded warriors, and we have to stay numb because if we start feeling, all those dreadful memories might come flooding back…but I’ve learned to distinguish sadness and grief from depression and PTSD, but I am still afraid to go to sleep…so I take four different drugs to cause unconsciousness, and they don’t wear off until 9 am, so no refresher acupuncture course for me. And I’m genuinely sad about that, and about the conditions that limit my abilities. As my grandfather, may he rest in peace, used to say: “If you have your health you have everything.” And he knew that by experience. He lived with depression his whole life, in the days when it was considered a shameful thing, so he never got treated and died a bitter old man. And he was numb to everything, or at least he never had a cheerful word about anything. But he did spin quarters for me, and bought me tiny loaves of bread, and slathered me with olive oil when we went to the beach. I can still remember the grit of sand in my mouth, and becoming more and more covered with sand as it stuck to my skin. But even then, I saw things as if from a distance, already numb at eight years old. I did not cry when he died.
Depression Comic 225 by Clay: Numbness
Posted by Laura P. Schulman, MD, MA on February 20, 2015