Dark Day

July 12, 2006 at 12:44 pm (Uncategorized)

I keep making wide turns in my head, but instead of changing the direction of my thoughts, I keep running into the same blank, brick wall.  I feel lousy, internally and externally, but sometimes it’s hard to separate chest pain from heartache, a headache from a turbulent mind.

Lots of people have written about depression: William Styron, Kay Redfield Jamison, Virginia Woolf, St. John of the Cross with his dark night of the soul.  They have taken the nebulous blackness that settled over them and teased out the specifics.  I don’t have anything to add to their legacy.  Whenever I try to write about this peculiar state of mind, I end up resorting to cliches and generalities.  I find it nearly impossible to explain this sadness that chases its own tail in my head.

But not a lot of people have written about depression and chronic illness.  We who suffer from sarcoidosis and lupus and multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other afflictions that don’t kill you right off the bat but make you feel miserable have teams of doctors poking and prodding our flesh, cataloguing our symptoms, testing new drugs on us.  But who looks after our hearts and souls and minds? The White Coats and their nurses certainly aren’t around twenty minutes after they deliver bad news and send us on our way.  “Who knows what your future holds?” they tell you.  “Come back in three months.  And have a nice day.”

I am fortunate to be able to afford some of the best available care for sarcoidosis.  I have a brilliant young doctor with a string of consonants after her last name– MD, PH.D.  She has referred me to a battalion of other brilliant young doctors.  One looks at my heart, another at the electrical functioning of my heart, another at the muscles and nerves sending signals from the brain, and still another at the brain itself.  When I go to visit them, they lay open the mysteries of my body, as if they could shrink me and spread me out and look at me under a microscope.  But the best they can do about the rest of me– the non-physical self that has to watch over all this indignity– is ask me if I’m feeling depressed.  “It’s common for people with chronic disease,” they’ll add, as a way of explanation.  And then they look away, as if they cannot bear to meet my eyes when they hear my answer.

In response to their question, I have told them that I feel very crummy about all of this.  I try to explain that it is hard to wake up every morning and feel as if some gangster has taken me into a darkened alley overnight and kicked me all over.  “Well, chronic fatigue is a major problem with this illness,” they say.  I have told them that it’s difficult to have a heart that decides to dance the samba every few days, instead of behaving itself.  I have told them it’s hard to deal with the specter of death, with the awfulness of uncertainty.  I have told them that it saddens me to take medications that make me sicker than the disease itself.  And then they’ll ask me, “Are you depressed enough to think about suicide?”  Hell, no.  No, no, no.  And that is the end of that.  For them.  This is their litmus test of mental health or unhealth.  But I have to scrape the pieces of myself off the sidewalk and plod along.

Today’s entry doesn’t contain any words of wisdom or clever metaphors.  I think like many other people with a chronic illness, there are days when nothing makes sense, when the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is very dim and far-off and in fact I wonder if the tunnel itself is all there is now.  I think it is alright to feel depressed and dark when it feels like I am struggling for my  life and with my life and yet nothing I do makes any difference.  This shall pass.  Maybe later today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month.  But for now, it simply is.

1 Comment

  1. Mellissa Welford said,

    I just wanted to say that I am a tad bit worried about you…..I do know what you are talking about in regards to depression. I spent many years denying any connection between my ‘depressed symptoms’ and being diagnosed depressed. Well actually I have since been diagnosed bi-polar. But I really think you need to talk to doctor about getting some anti-depressants. And if you are on some, maybe they need adjusting. I still have a hard time admitting I have a mental illness, cause I am still trying to understand my sarc. But my meds do help tremendously. Just thought I would pass a little note on to you and let you know that you are doing a wonderful job with what God keeps giving you. And it is ok to be sad and not even know why. You are a strength to many but don’t forget to be a strength to yourself.

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