Monday, March 5, 2007

NPR - Not living

Sorry for the subject title, but it's something that crosses my mind now and then. The truth is that I have genetic Dysthymia (you can google this to death if you want), but in short, it's chronic low depression. There are two types, incidental, meaning the individual has a depressive episode which is expressed as Dysthymia, and genetic, meaning the individual has a predisposition to be Dysthymic and expresses this over their entire life. I have the latter.

And why the interest? A nephew committed suicide at 19, my brother quit life at 48 when faced with the prospect of having heart-lung tranplant - he came home, sat down, and had a heart attack and died, and my father who died shortly after his 75th birthday - he just didn't get up the next day and died in his bed at home two days later. I've come close to suicide twice in my life feeling like a complete failure, which I explain here.

Can I function? Yes, easily. Good upbringing, and good perspective on life. You see Dysthymia isn't about depression, but about life and death, and the choices you make. You have to get up every day and choose life, if you don't, you stop living, and sometimes you quit life altogether. It's something few people really understand and want to think about let alone discuss. It's about dying and we separate "these" people from the rest of "us" as abnormal, and yet, you can't tell a Dysthymic or depressed person unless they tell you. We hide in plain sight.

Why this topic now? I was listening to a Dave Matthews Band song, and there was a line, "Grave digger, when you dig my grave, can you make it shallow so that I can feel the rain." And why this line? Well, I live on the top floor of my building and I love the rainstorms, to hear the rain pound on the roof. When it rains real hard, I feel it into my body and mind, and I feel in in my soul, in the dark as if I was buried and felt it.

Morbid? Not really, because we all think of death and dying, even when we don't. Do you think the writer of that line in the photo on a plaque about letters from the front of WW II veterans on the front? He knew he might die any day, and he spoke the words raining in his mind. He had choices and didn't, and he chose to express his thoughts. And is it appropriate here? To me it is, how many didn't come home? It's the reality of war.

Do you watch the TV show "Without a Trace"? It's an interesting show in some ways, and I like the beginning when the person of interest who "vanishes", they just disappear on the screen. What if that were you? What would you expect your loved ones to do? How would they miss you? Have you done what you want in life at any time? Or are you bothered with the day to day things of life, and forget? Or are you too focused on living, death isn't in your thought, but it's just something you accept should something happen?

Remember it's only a heartbeat away, so while you don't have to think about it, it always there. My advice from life on the edge of depression? Just live and let the rest take care of itself, and appreciate your life and loved ones. That's all anyone can ask.


  1. It's in the background of a lot of conversations I have with my recently retired father. Although life may not be an endless series of wins and highs, it still has much to offer. To think of it otherwise would suggest a disconnect somewhere between expectation and reality. Keeping in mind the inevitable only gives life that much more meaning. As I tell my dad, we're only alive for a brief time. Your life is only a flash of consciousness in an ocean of time and unconsciousness. You can concern yourself with death once you're dead.

    Coincidentally, the same Dave Matthews lyric has also resonated with me, and I'm no fan. A healthy respect for and awareness of death never hurt anyone.

  2. I hope you have long and good conversations with your Dad, and he talks about his life, especially his youth. My Dad never did and took all he knew and experienced to his grave, and left of us kids wondering. My Mom passed away last year, and was much the same, quiet to the end. The lesson I took from them is don't hold it in. Talk, express, live out loud so you leave something for people to ponder and wonder, and be thankful. That's all we can ask of loved ones, just be alive and share.