Depression has many guises and, PT Barnam not withstanding, is the true greatest showman. Sometimes it allows us to dress up for Mardi Gras and appear to be someone totally different from whom we are on the inside. At others it pulls the mask away and strips us naked for all to see, usually when we least want it to. At work, for example. My youngest daughter deals with depression like her dad and is also very empathetic. She’s been helping me greatly, telling me to do whatever I need to be happy (even if it means moving for a job or a relationship), while at the same time taking on my own pain and internalizing it. Last night she had to leave work early because she just couldn’t keep it together. She was just sad about life and I am convinced she took on my depression like a contagion.
Unless you’re a televangelist caught in bed with a male prostitute or hoofed livestock, crying in front of a bunch of other people is often not advisable. For TV preachers, crying is beneficial because crocodile tears help hoodwink the gullible into believing that it was really just massage therapy and the goat wasn’t yours. But for the rest of us, real cleansing tears may be shed at any moment and the ability to stifle them is inversely proportional to the appropriateness of the venue.
None of this is to imply that real tears shed with others is counterproductive. Far from it. If I’ve learned anything it’s that shared tears make a good diluent. (Also, never order “medium” spicy from a Thai restaurant). Having a close friend with whom to cry is critical. He or she just needs to listen, maybe touch or hold you. Cleaning your kitchen is also nice.
The modern First World problem with which we need to deal, however, is isolation. We live increasingly isolated lives and often have no one with whom to cry in person. This is a huge issue and I believe (without any data whatsoever) contributes to depression and the need for medications. While I have, for example a very robust support network across the country and the globe, by virtue of my position in my veterinary peer-to-peer support group, Not One More VetTM; I have limited to non-existent local support, outside my daughters and my ex-wife. Crying with your ex, the divorce from whom is the source of many of the tears, seems somewhat counter-productive. We haven’t yet gotten to the place where we can share our grief. When we try, it dissolves into anger and a chorus of “leave me the fuck alones”, which leaves both of us feeling worse than before. Like everything, it takes time, I suppose.
I am therefore left to explore the boundaries of my sadness largely alone. Texts, instant messages, and phone calls help tremendously, especially from some of my more insightful friends who know how to ask questions and get me outside my own head. But I have no one with whom to simply sit and cry. I will go over to my ex’s house and play with the dogs sometimes. Puppy therapy is the best. And it’s free. They are good listeners and don’t care if I cry. They will lay with me and just “be”. Like a best friend should.
I have two upcoming veterinary conferences where I will see many friends and acquaintances. Depression doesn’t just disappear. It’s a loyal disease, so I don’t know how I will be feeling or whether I will be wearing a mask. But I’ll be there basking in the healing waters of friendship and hoping the demons are shouted down for at least a little while. And I’ll be able to share tears, if need be.