Depression: It’s the Little Things

little things

I have suffered with depression most of my adult life, especially since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1997.

Over the past two decades, not only have I had to contend with Fibromyalgia, I’ve had to deal with neurological problems that are ever so-slowly-robbing me of my physical strength and ability to walk. My cane and wheelchair are never far away. Some days, most days, are cane days, other days are wheelchair days. Some days are cane and wheelchair days, days when I want to use my cane to club the thoughtless people who walk in front me, try to get in front of me, or just stand there ignoring the fact that I can’t get around them. If illness and debility have taught me anything, they have taught me that some of my fellow humans are narcissistic, self-absorbed assholes who have no time or empathy for others.

Every day is a pain day for me. Some days the pain is manageable and it fades into the background as I write. Other days, the pain is standing with both feet on my neck, threatening to turn me into a weeping, pathetic man. Most days are a balance between  these extremes. I take my pain meds, try to function, and live for another day.

Along with Fibromyalgia, neurological problems, loss of function, and pain, I’ve had to deal with skin cancer, cysts, a recent pancreatic cancer scare, loss of appetite, on-and-off loss of cognitive function, a not-yet-repaired labrum tear in my shoulder, torn menisci in both of my knees, osteoarthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Healthwise, my plate is full. That said, I accept my life as it is. I am a realist. I don’t try to delude myself into thinking I am a young buck running through the forest in chase of a doe. I am a loving, kind, passionate man who, due to genetics, luck, environmental exposure, and personal lifestyle choices, has a body that is dying at a faster rate than others my age. I am a high mileage automobile that from a distance looks good, but close inspection reveals a lot of wear and tear.

All of this I embrace and own. It’s my life, I have to live it on the terms dictated to me by my body. Thinking happy thoughts, putting mind over matter, pretending things are different from what they are provide no help for me. Even when I was a young man, a healthy, strapping, strong man who hunted, hiked, cut wood, and could bend the world to my will, I tried to see things as they are.

Having a father die at 49 and a mother commit suicide at 54 tends to give one a particular perspective. Visiting sick and dying church members in the hospital tends to remind one that life is short. My experiences with the sick and dead have certainly shaped my understanding of life and I know path I am on, healthwise, leads to a fiery furnace. No not hell, silly. I am going to be cremated after I die.

My counselor has told me several times that it would be unusual for a person with the health problems I have to not be depressed. He knows I struggle with suicidal thoughts, but he also knows that these thoughts are driven by the chronic, unrelenting physical pain,  Through kindness, compassion, friendship, and support, he keeps me from falling down the rabbit hole, never to be seen again.

As many depressives will tell you, it is often little things that worsen their depression. For me, it’s not the chronic illness and unrelenting pain…it’s the little, unexpected things that push me towards the abyss. Things like:

  • Falling and wrenching the shoulder that has the labrum tear
  • Constipation
  • Getting out of the house so I can take photographs, only to find out I left the SD card in the card reader
  • Emails and texts to friends who never respond
  • Health advice from people I have repeatedly asked to stop pretending they are doctors
  • People asking me, have you tried this, that, this, that, this, that, this, that, this, that, this, that…
  • Dropping a dish on my foot
  • Stubbing my toe in the dark on something that is not where it is supposed to be
  • Nothing in the refrigerator I want to eat
  • No internet
  • The printer running out of ink or toner
  • Needing a quarter for a cart at Aldi and not having one
  • The batteries in the remote dying just as I get comfortable in my chair or bed
  • Making an error in the checkbook
  • Store clerks who treat me as if  I have a disease or worse yet, treat me as if I don’t exist
  • Finding out last night’s dinner stained my favorite shirt
  • The DVR not recording a show I wanted to watch
  • No milk and I want to eat a bowl of cereal

Silly stuff, I know. But, here’s what you need to understand: for those who live with chronic illness and pain, there’s a cumulative effect. Their lives are already filled to the brim with the struggles that come from their illness. It’s often all they can do just to live another day. So, when a small insignificant thing is thrown on top of their load, it can and does bring them crashing down.

Try to remember this the next time you think your suffering friend is overreacting to a small matter: it’s not that one thing that is the problem; it’s the accumulation of numerous small things that have left your friend or loved one curled up on the bed wanting to die.

081116

6 Comments

  1. HeIsSailing

    Bruce, thanks for this article. It helps me understand some people a little better.

    Reply
  2. Susannah Anderson

    There was a time, some years back, when I was struggling with health issues, including vertigo and constant pain from arthritis and bursitis, plus the responsibility for a large household and a rapidly failing aunt. I was somehow “coping”, I thought; just plugging away, putting one foot in front of the other, counting my spoons, as they say.

    One afternoon, just before I started cooking supper for 7 or 8, one of the residents came in with a big smile and a bag of freshly-cut corn on the cob. I was furious! How dare he! I already had the menu planned, and here he was with more work to do, husking corn and dropping it in a pot! Just who did he think he was, imposing on me like that! I fumed all through supper and dishes.

    Sometime that night, I realized what an idiot I had been.

    (Item: I love corn on the cob.)

    Reply
  3. Zoe

    So true. The little things. Holding a grandchild while feeling like your muscles are tearing and you might drop them but hell would freeze over before you ever did. You don’t let on, not one bit. On the way home your back and body react. Spasms arch through your body. You can’t crawl out of your skin, out of the vehicle, you cry, crying hurts more. Your significant other sees your pain and can’t do a damn thing about it but wants too and you are so tired of him baring this . . . what seems a burden to us . . . and you reach for a song in your head, you look out the window and tell yourself to breathe. You tell yourself this too will pass after you take a week or so to recover from the outing. You think of jumping out of the car. You reach for the Tramadol.

    Reply
  4. Erin Word

    While my experiences haven’t been the same as yours, I can relate. It’s like that thing that goes around Facebook every so often; “Every person you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

    In my opinion, it’s especially true when a person (including myself) experiences so-called “invisible illnesses”; mental health concerns, fibromyalgia, diabetes, autism spectrum, etc. Even when a person also experiences a “visible” illness, the “invisible” ones are often discounted. I don’t know if that is true for you, it’s just what I’ve experienced.

    Reply
  5. Angiep

    So sorry for you, Bruce. Thank you for keeping us aware of the insensitive things we could be doing, whether carelessly, selfishly, or just out of ignorance. Actually I do relate to your list of things that get you down. While I don’t have your health issues, those same frustrations get to me also, maybe because it’s the little things that seem to count the most in life. I think the most poignant ones were,”Emails and texts to friends who never respond,” and “Store clerks that treat like I have a disease or worse yet treat me like I don’t exist.” I’m sure that makes you feel very alone, but remember, we care about you. I love your blog so much and I hope you continue writing forever.

    Reply
  6. Becky Wiren

    People seem to think that fibromyalgia is a disease that can be cured by eating right, exercising, and taking supplements. Well…I’ve met some people who had it mildly and mild things helped. But I have found that once it passes moderate to severe fibromyalgia, I need drugs. Strong drugs. And even strong drugs don’t always help, depending on how acclimated your body gets.

    So, I do want to smack these people. Often!

    Reply

Please Leave a Pithy Reply

%d bloggers like this: