It’s time for a little something on depression. There are lots of ways to be depressed, beside the one most people think of, feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time. Feeling sad and hopeless and crying all the time is what drove me to see my doctor in 1997, when I got my depression diagnosis.
Sadness was only one of many ways depression had me in its grip, and to explain more about that I need to start with my blog title, Wish I Could Have Been There.
It comes from the song I Wish I Could Have Been There, by John Anderson, one of my favorite country singers. The song tells of a man reflecting on all the times his occupation (country singer on the road maybe?) pulls him away from his wife and children and all the important family events he has missed.
The song came to have profound meaning for me after my depression diagnosis. It explained something about my high school reunions that always left me baffled and disturbed.
I attended University High School in Norman, Oklahoma, a small laboratory school for the College of Education at the University of Oklahoma. I was one of seventeen in the graduating class of 1962.
At one time many universities operated these laboratory schools; they were designed to provide students a solid, classical education from teachers who challenged their students to embrace learning in an atmosphere of experimentation and innovation.
Most of the schools have closed by now, which I think is a shame. Most of my classmates to this day would testify we received a superior education at our University High School. Almost of us had at least one teacher there we absolutely revered.
Being a laboratory school for the university, UHS attracted a lot of professors’ kids, and the nerd quotient was pretty high. I was not a nerd.
My family moved to Norman in 1957 from Seminole, Oklahoma, when my mother accepted an invitation to teach first grade at University School. I entered the 8th grade at the high school and quickly made friends.
By the next year I was a cheerleader, and head cheerleader my senior year. In my junior year I was homecoming queen. All through high school I ran with the really cool kids. I was very popular.
But later when I went to class reunions, other classmates would regale me with remembered stories involving me. I had no memory of many of these incidents. I laughed with my old friends as if I too remembered the events, but inside I was gobsmacked at how their memories could be so different from mine.
After I was diagnosed with depression and learned more about the illness, I finally understood why.
Depression runs in both sides of my family. After my diagnosis in 1997 at the age of 53, I recognized I had had depression most of my life. It started manifesting subtly in my childhood and grew more obvious, to me at least, as I got older.
I had lots of friends, I was popular, I had a successful career, yet often I was miserable inside. I would sometimes look forward to activities with friends and then find within an hour or so I was bored or stressed and dying to get away. Sometimes I would get irritable and lose my temper.
So one of the things about depression is that when you’re in it and feeling it, you are focusing on yourself and your own misery, not on the people around you. Like a narcissist, except the self-absorption is not about how great you think you are, but about how inadequate you feel.
Thus I may have been there physically with my high school classmates, yet far, far away emotionally. This emotional absence was true for me much of my life. It cost me friendships I didn’t have the energy to maintain. It cost me my marriage. It cost me the love of my life.
Thus the title of my blog, Wish I Could Have Been There. When I got diagnosed with depression and started taking medication, the person inside me who had been struggling to come out all those years came out. At 57 years old, I was finally the me I had always wanted to be.
I wish every day now I had been that me all along. There is so much in my life I missed. So many bad choices and lost opportunities. So much regret.
I know, you’re not supposed to dwell on your regrets. It’s toxic.
But when you know how different your life would have been if you had escaped that depression cocoon so much earlier, it’s hard not to have regrets. So far, I haven’t figured out how to get past them.
There’s more to tell about how depression has shaped my life, but that’s for future posts.
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Peace and Joy,