Isn’t it odd when how we see ourselves is confronted by an expert’s view of us? This week, I was confronted by the official write-up from my last visit with my neurologist. There as the last condition was a word I would never use for myself. Yet there it was, the “d” word. I thought it must be some kind of mistake till I mentioned it to my wife, and she said “Of course. It’s not like it’s the first write-up to describe you as ‘depressed.'”
There, I’ve written the word I’ve not allowed myself to think describes me. She said she’s never seen anyone able to hold a grudge like I do who wasn’t depressed in some way. When I protested I must be the happiest, luckiest depressed guy on earth, she shrugged pointing out I do take an anti-depressant to sleep at night. I was told it is an anti-spasticity drug with some anti-depressant uses as well. Who cares? It works.
As I started to defend myself and my positive attitude, I realize it is with logic like, “I have MS, but I can still run, work full time, and…my MS is so much better than Mrs. Soandso’s.” or “I may not have X, but look at how much of what I need I do have” or “look how many people go out of their way to make my life easier at the hard points.” I know over half of MS patients are treated for depression. Part of me wants to scream, many of us should be depressed. However, that’s a deliberate confusion of situational depression from brain chemistry.
When I continue down that path of logic, all I can come up with is “if I am depressed, my bulwark is a reliably (thus far) inexhaustible ability to find different perspectives in order to find a more desirable outlook.” Maybe “depression” is always looking for the better perspective, willing to deny the reality as it first presents.
Don’t we all do this though? I know the old joke about “De Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.” It’s an old joke. So obviously I haven’t cornered the market on this approach.
Of course, maybe this is just one of those times where it really doesn’t matter what the truth is. I figure as I deny, one of these two is true: 1) My first instinct is correct, and I am not depressed or 2) I am depressed but have found ways to bend my mind around situations which would otherwise make me sad. Aren’t both of those more desirable than lethargy and tears? The hedonist in me says, “screw harsh reality whenever there is a alternate reality close at hand.”
I think of this choice, and I’m confronted with a question. How do I get my daughter to make similar choices as she becomes ever more beset by fear. One moment it’s a spider in the basement. The next it’s fly in the window. I see in her a host of anxieties, and I strive to give her tools to befriend that which scares most thoroughly at the moment. “The spider whose web you are now wearing is the same one who eats the flys and mosquitos you feared a moment ago. As annoying and scary as it was for you, imagine having your home trampled by a giant. Who got the worst of this deal?” Some day, I will learn not to use such logic on my most empathetic of kids…For the next day she was crying over the dead fly feeling bad for it and how much she hated it the night before.
Ok, so maybe there are limits to this perspective trick.