February 2015

Winter sucks for depression. Those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) hate it. Even if you don’t have SAD, the lack of light still affects you to some degree. If you have any sort of depression, winter can simply drain life from you.

I’ve struggled with depression for as much of my life as I can remember. There have been times in the past where it’s been crippling. I’ve learned how to keep it above that line most of the time, or at least how to fake it when it’s going badly.

Mixing depression and chronic pain, however, has been a terrible challenge of late. Over two years of near constant pain of some degree has ground me down. My neurologists tell me that no one goes through this without depression, or in my case, a lot more of it. The body and mind just were not meant to carry both of these for this long without something having to give.

Add in having a five-year-old with cancer and an autistic nine-year-old – and all the times I worry about them, their present challenges, their unknown futures – and I spend much of my mental energy feeling anxious, if not terrified, of it all.

I tell myself that this is normal. I tell myself that I’ve gotten through this many, many times before, and I’ll do it again. Both of these are true, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very, very hard.

Most of all, I’m tired of saying ‘no’ to my kids about nearly everything. I don’t have the mental or physical energy to say ‘yes’ anywhere near as much as I want to. I often feel like a crappy, terrible parent. And the result is just more depression – an endless spiral that feeds on itself like the snake eating its own tail.

OuroborosToward the end of each day especially, I regularly feel like I want to crawl out of my own skin and away from my frantic brain. I either want to check out for a couple of hours or more or just call it a day and try again tomorrow. But I can’t and I don’t.

My younger son has no memory of me being strong. Tim the marathoner and distance runner seems like a lifetime ago now, even though it’s not even 2 1/2 years. He only knows the ‘no’ me, the one who has far too many limits. The one he sometimes feels like he needs to take care of. That often hurts the most.

I hide the struggles from him as best I can. He has far too many of his own. He is on the cusp of remission after an awful past 12 months. He doesn’t need this, and young kids shouldn’t have to worry about and take care of their parents anyway.

I even have some idea of what I have to do to get back on the right track again, but depression being what it is, I often just can’t bring myself to do it. I keep hoping things will get better when spring comes, but that, too, seems so far away.

My first marathon was a borderline miracle. I was in a terrible place when I decided to get off the couch and start piecing my life back together. That’s the one gift of a marathon that never goes away: I’ve done it once; I can do it again.

Even if I can’t jog around the block right now, and even though the way back now is even harder, that part of me keeps its faith even if the rest cannot. I see my finisher’s medals and long to get back to that place. To get to where I can roll back the uniform, impenetrable gray of depression. To get to where my sons can see me strong and alive again.

To get back to the father who can say ‘yes’ whenever he wants.

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