I’m generally a pretty conservative guy. I don’t like roller coasters, don’t dress up in costumes, don’t look for excuses to go camping or fishing whenever the sun is shining. I ride my bicycle on paved roads because I nearly killed myself on a dirt trail one time, don’t try to repair anything without at least two other adults around, and order the same thing at every restaurant I go to 95 percent of the time. Heck, I’m even boring myself writing about this right now.
I have a certain friend, though, who has this rare ability to talk me into doing crazy stuff. He was the one who convinced me to go on the trail ride I mentioned earlier. He also got me to dress up like a pirate one year on Halloween and go eat with him at a couple of local seafood restaurants (He was dressed that way, too. You didn’t think I’d do that by myself, did you?). And one of his most recent accomplishments was convincing me to drive a little over two hours to watch Will Ferrell’s Casa de mi Padre on its opening weekend.
A trip like that obviously requires a little car time, which can lead to all kinds of interesting discussions. I mean, there’s only so long you can speculate on how many ways Ferrell will manage to drop the F-bomb in an all-Spanish language flick (Answer: Approximately two-thousand.). Various topics will get kicked around until at last someone will inevitably ask the other: “So … how are things going?” And that’s when the real fun begins.
On this particular trip, my friend began to describe to me how a certain situation had left him in a state of near depression, a feeling which was somewhat new for him. “I would just sit there in bed in the morning,” he said (I’m paraphrasing here. The hour-and-a-half of Casa that evening pretty much wiped out any exact memories I have of that trip.). “I just didn’t want to do anything. It was like a darkness that wouldn’t lift.”
He then went on to describe how that darkness had lifted over time and how he was thankful for that season of his life to be over with. After listening to him recount his experience, I thought for a moment and then let out a statement I don’t even think I was fully aware I was making: “That season you just described is how I feel every day.”
Subtle, I know. I look back on that moment now, though, as a defining moment in my progression toward seeking help with depression. I kept trying to pin everything I was feeling on some circumstance – my job, my personal relationships, my numerous limitations, etc., etc. Along the way, very well-meaning people were telling me things such as, “You know this won’t last forever. Press in to God. Pray more. Good things are just around the corner. You’ll snap out of it.”
I have no doubt my friend, like millions of other people in the world, went through a dark period and, by the grace of God, snapped out of it. I also have no doubt that 99.9 percent of the advice given to me over the years was given out of love and genuine concern. To be honest, I felt like a real failure because I couldn’t rise above whatever was going on in my head. Actually, scratch that: I still feel like a failure most days because I can’t straighten out. This feeling shouldn’t last this long; I must be doing something wrong.
Welcome to life with dysthymia, friends.
It still feels odd saying that, because even I feel like it’s a cop-out. For now, at least, it’s the truth I have to work with, and it’s an enemy I can formulate a plan of attack against. That moment in the car with my friend made me realize that my dark “season” had gone on for years and wasn’t showing any signs of letting up soon. There are days when I don’t think I’ll ever come out of it. And then there are those other days when I can finally see a little light at the end of the tunnel and not be afraid it’s from an oncoming train.
I think I took my friend by surprise that night, because he had never experienced anything like what I was describing. I don’t think the majority of people in the world can relate to it either. I wish they could, though. Maybe we should all just hop in a big van and head out to see an obscure comedy film a couple of hours away from home. You never know what we might wind up talking about along the way.