Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Depression Is Not Always "Sadness"

Anybody who knows me well enough would not be surprised to learn that I'm struggling with a bit of depression in these recent weeks. It's enough to note that September has come again with its daylight and weather changes and its new routines (which are especially challenging this year). Various circumstances are piling up, making me defensive, withdrawn, and a bit more reclusive.

And there's more self-doubt. Always self-doubt, now growing in new directions as I get older and see so much of my life behind me.

What a waste it all seems to have been.

For so many years I prepared and prepared for... what? I don't really know what. I have all this knowledge and professional skill, as well as lots of experience and the capacity to express myself. It just doesn't seem worth all that much. All the time burned away by vanity. I never expected to be overtaken so soon in life by weakness of health and the passage of time.

How did I get broken? I wanted to work with young people, students, to listen to them and mentor them, to be a teacher. Now my son is at the college that I helped to build -- the place I loved so hard that it really almost killed me -- and I feel more disconnected and confused than ever. It's like, "Why am I not there?"

I'm not saying I want to be there now. I don't know (although I have so much to offer, but then again, maybe I'm not able to give in that way any longer).

So where am I? Here mostly at home, with my wife and children, and helping on the edges of my wife's work and some other projects. I am writing often, but even a part time regular commitment to my column in Magnificat stretches me. Everything is intense; everything requires a personal preparation and an entire engagement, followed by exhaustion and a slow recovery.

People my age are doing all sorts of things! I can only do a few things, and I barely have a grip on them. And then I have these "waves" of moderate depression that I have to ride out. Not exactly a confidence booster for when I do take something on.

Depression is not always about "sadness." Sometimes it feels like you're just fading into invisibility, like you're losing your substance, your energies, your spark, your connection. You might be able to drive yourself by willpower, but then you end up frustrated with so many obstacles and you get angry. You lash out at petty things, or you make yourself rigid or stoic or resigned.

So what does one do? One suffers. It helps ward off discouragement to remember that suffering has meaning, and to draw close to the sources that nurture that memory.

Our suffering is, I believe, more important in the shaping of our destiny than any of our accomplishments or any of the success of our plans.

Still, while we live we must work. I don't think I can really push myself anymore, but I do hope to be drawn by Love, and to be patient with its small steps and its silence.