Depression or Sadness?

One day I am up, or part of the day at any rate, and the next day I am down, or the next part of it. I can be cheerful in one moment and crying the next, and it takes little to bring on the tears, but equally little to cheer me up when I am in the mood to be cheered. I feel like a windmill, turning whichever way the winds of my moods blow, and not like the old creaky Dutch ones, but the shiny winged new ones that turn on a dime, shifting as quickly.

Usually what brings on the tears are thoughts of death, but do the thoughts precede the crying and sadness or the sadness precede the blackened thoughts? A good question.  Would I be thinking about the imminent end of the world and my role in it, and thinking of it so often and so desperately were I not already sad? Or does merely the thought of it, and the constant reference to global warming naturally stirs thoughts of it in me,  make me sad? One thing I know is that once I think and am sad, in whatever order those two occur, I start crying, desperately, torrentially, if not sobbing then the tears pouring down my cheeks in silence…

A wise friend suggested I try an exercise in distancing myself from the sadness, by taking a large waterglass and trying to catch my tears when I cry so hard. She says the suffering in the world all comes from a sense of loss, from not understanding that the nature of the world is impermanence, is all things changing…She says that all time is simultaneous, that there is no past or future, except what we choose to focus on. She tells me a lot of things that are difficult to understand.

Right now I am sitting in my living room/bedroom with all the furniture emptied and  crowded into the center around my recliner and TV because the painters are coming to paint on Wednesday and the only person who could help me move things had to come on Saturday. So now I have to live this way for the next few days, with nothing to do but use the computer or watch television, because most of my books, which I cannot read anyway, are packed away in the studio. That is now so full that I couldn’t paint or make jewelry or do art of any sort even if I wanted to. And in any event, I have been physically ill for several days so little appeals to me but lying rather listless in my big chair and stroking my cat! 8D

What a life, what a life…But I lie here thinking about the planet and I think about how I desperately need to find some hope, for myself, for the world, for my thinking about the world and my role in it, in its ending…and I wonder: am I sad or am I depressed? Is there a difference? Is it substantial? And does it matter? It matters that the world is ending, if it is. But is it? I believe it is. But many people, who I think are in  denial and in the dark, think that is nonsense. It matters a great deal if the world is ending, especially if it is my fault. It matters a great deal to me! But most people tell me that it is not my fault, and so far none have said that it is… Most venture only to say that the world will go on, with or without us, and perhaps it is okay if it’s without us…In any event, nobody — well, perhaps one alone of all my friends — seems as desperate and as hopeless as I about the situation, and we are both so hopeless we cannot help each another, only drown in one another’s tears.

Oh how we cling to what is, by that other friend’s definition, impermanent, ever-changing. As Heraclitus said, the world is “an ever-igniting fire, by measures being kindled and by measures going out.”

But is it depression or sadness? I have not felt truly well since I got out of M Hospital in the fall. Oh, I have felt better, and I have felt worse, but I have not felt consistently good, no. And I cannot shake this persistency of ready tears. My psychiatrist did not understand this until the day the tears fell in his office, along with my confession of how hopeless I felt about the world and its imminent demise, how guilty I felt about it. I was surprised at the alacrity with which he pushed an antidepressant on me, since I had not cried so before in his presence, not that I can recall. I thought he might have wanted to discern more of a long-standing pattern….But he scarcely gave me a chance to object. Just “suggested it” then reminded me that our time was up for the week, and he would see me “next week, same day, same time” same channel etc. I was to call him if any problems arose or I needed anything at all in the meantime. But i still had the new prescription to take too, and my visiting nurse would most likely want me to take it as directed. Since I was mostly an obedient patient, and since I wanted to feel better as well, I took it, having no particular objections to that medication. But has it done any good? Oh, I didn’t cry as much for the next few days, and we all thought, Oh, my what a wonderful drug, it has worked so very quickly!

But of course, no drug works that fast. If anything at all, it was a placebo effect. But likely as not, it was simply that other matters intervened and  the end of the world was put on hold as I dealt with matters closer to the facts of everyday life than teleology. Not that the “end of humanity” needs to be the equivalent to the “end of times” but to me if felt that way. Anyhow, I suspect that to those who deal with matters of “teleology,”  the end of times  and the end of humanity may mean much the same thing too, probably. (Who would care about teleo- anything were humans no longer around to think about such things?)

A month later, though, (and the dosage remains minimal, which may or may not be related to this) I still cry torrential tears at thoughts of death, dissolution and the devastation of the planet. I still feel overwhelming sadess upon hearing of anyone’s death, and mere advertising skits can make me tearful if emotional enough in the wrong way…Embarrassing as that is to admit. On the other hand, though, I can still write, I can still paint, and I can still make jewelry and cook and go over to visit Joe and  on and on. I may not always feel like it, but I do it, and that is what is important. And when I do art and write and  cook and so on, I make myself feel better, at least temporarily. So those are antidepressants in and of themselves, yet I could not do them at all, I think, without a certain level of energy above depression.

But as I started this, I go up and I go down, down, down. And maybe that is key, that I am not always depressed, just that I am easily dragged into the slough of despond by thoughts of bleak and utter despair, and whence those come, I do not know. Maybe from reality, cold and hard as a concrete floor, or maybe from imagining the worst. But no one  knows what will happen. The worst is only one of an infinite number of possibilities…

One thought on “Depression or Sadness?”

  1. Hi Pam,

    When I think of depression, I think of something that should not be, but is (hence the need for anti-depressant pills). When I think of sadness, I think of something more natural, something bittersweet. What you’re experiencing sounds like a mixture. I know you don’t like to be crying, but I haven’t cried in years and sometimes I wish that I would, once in a while. Your crying is more severe. Pam, if the world is ending for human beings, it is not your fault alone, but all of us collectively. So please, stop taking the whole burden on yourself. When you do that you give yourself reason to cry. All we have is this present moment and what we choose to do with it. I struggle with this too. Lately I’ve been feeling depressed. I think it is due to it being winter because in winter I tend to hibernate and isolate. But you, you wonderful woman, still engage in the life around you and I’m proud of you for that. I am so glad that you are still able to write because you write so well and have so much to say, despite setbacks. I am drawn to people who are very honest and you rank high on my list. Even though I’m saddened that you are sad, I still rejoice in your skill and talent and tenacious honesty about yourself and your circumstances.


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