Marolt: Confessing the sin of depression
I think that the difference between sadness and depression is that when you are sad, you remain rational, and when you are depressed, you don’t. I said, “I think.” How would I know? We don’t talk about this kind of stuff. The experts do, but not you and me. That needs to change. We need to stop killing ourselves for lack of knowing or, worse, for fear of facing a grim reality.
I’ve been sad. A relative or friend dies, you have to put a pet down, someone you love is suffering — those things make you sad. The thing is, when you are sad, you remain aware. In fact, in sadness we feel even more acutely aware of what is going on around us. We feel empathy. We grow. Sadness bonds us; it actually brings us closer together.
I’ve been depressed, too. I don’t know what causes it. I can’t tie it to any particular happening. Depression isolates me from others. It channels me inward. When I am depressed, I focus pretty much on me. I turn solely to myself for answers at the exact time I have absolutely none. I get lost. It is not a choice.
Before I get any further, this is not my cry for help. It is my confession of experience and an outreach of empathy. I really am fine and never consider taking my own life. Depression for me is sporadic. It hits me once, maybe twice a year. It generally lasts a couple of days. I recognize it and never lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. When I am depressed, nobody knows it except my wife. She recognizes it before I do.
The irony here is that the most recent time I was depressed was last weekend, and so was Stewart Oskenhorn. I don’t know what happened in either case that converted sadness into it. Maybe it was the light depravation they always talk about in winter. Maybe it was all the snow. Job stress? The Broncos? I don’t know, and that’s the point.
I do know how I felt. I couldn’t get organized at work, and things were piling up on my desk. There were a million things around the house that needed my attention that I couldn’t get to. I felt like I wasn’t being attentive to my family. I was writing pure crap. The dog wasn’t getting any exercise. I felt like I was failing at everything I was trying to do.
I know, I know — big deal. Welcome to the club. But it’s not that simple when your thought process starts to slide down the slippery slope of irrationality. It is when everything you tell yourself is an ugly lie, and the response from the dark place you temporarily reside is to egg on your mind.
Here is where it gets a bit scary and you have to be careful. In this state, I came up with a plan to attack all those things that I felt I had lost control of. I was going to give up this column and the one I write in the Snowmass Sun. I was going to resign from the boards of the charitable organizations I sit on. I was going to fire half my clients. I felt the power! I was going to do all of this on Monday! Finally, relief!
Do you see what that is? It’s suicide lite. I felt so locked inside of that dark place inside myself that the only way out was to destroy myself not physically but professionally. Unfortunately, Stewart chose to do it physically. I opened up the paper Monday morning, and that news hit me like a punch in the gut. With that perspective, I moved from my depression into much more manageable, albeit much longer lasting, sadness.
“Depression” is a frightening word, possibly more so in a place like Aspen, where it is not supposed to exist. It doesn’t have to be. Again, I don’t know, but I believe lots of people occasionally get mildly depressed, like I do. From my dark place, I don’t lose sight of God, my family or friends, and that is always enough to bring me out. Yet I know some fall even deeper into the blackness where they no longer can see even the radiance of those who love them so dearly. That is where we, in the rational world, have to reach in and pull them back to safety. I wish I knew how. Can’t we talk about this?
Roger Marolt knows that, statistically, Aspen is not even close to being the happiest place on Earth. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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