Am I Just Sad or Is It Depression?

This week Declan Groeger considers peace of mind and not letting life get him down. 

I am an optimist and always will be. I always, well almost always, look at the upside and my glass is rarely even half empty; sometimes it’s awaiting a refill! I always try to keep my best side out. It’s not that I try to hide my feelings or my less-than good days but I just don’t broadcast them. People have commented on my seemingly ever-present good humour but the reality of the matter is that it is not ever-present and the days it is missing are the days when I stay at home and minimise social interactions. Thankfully those days are few and far between. Do I get sad? Of course I do but rarely as a result of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). 

Do I know the difference between sadness and depression? I like to think that I do. I remember going for a flu vaccine a number of years ago and the administering nurse asked if I ever had the flu and when I replied that I didn’t think so she said “I’ll take that as a no because if you ever had flu you would never forget”. I think that if ever I had been depressed I would never forget it. I now liken sadness to ‘man flu’ and depression to the real flu; once affected never forgotten. Sadness is an integral part of human life but depression is not.

How do I stave off depression and maintain a relatively sunny disposition? Contentment! I have accepted my situation. I am not happy about it; who would be happy to have MS? But I do have peace of mind. That is not to say that I am resigned to my fate. Resignation brings with it feelings of hopelessness and despair and those feelings are the beginning of a downward spiral into depression. 

If you keep looking back, you can’t see where you are going. This is so true and let’s be honest, us, people with MS, have lots to look back on, to reminisce about. What might have been, what could have been, what should have been. This is obviously a cause of sadness and the fact that the future doesn’t look too rosy further compounds the situation, but we shouldn’t leave those thoughts to fester like a bad sore or to hang over us like The Sword of Damocles. I have tried to embrace mindfulness and live for the moment, the here and now but such thoughts are not to espouse selfishness. It is important to get the balance right.

I find that writing gives me release. I sometimes write about things that I have never discussed before but having put a topic out there it becomes easier to have the discussion. Find what works for you and hang onto it. 

Would I know if I was slipping into depression and would I know what I to do about it? I like to think that I would recognise it but having never been there I’m not absolutely certain. I do, however, know that it’s good to talk. A problem shared is a problem halved. People tell me that I’m a good talker but there are times when it is more important to listen; we were born with two ears and one mouth so that we listen twice as much as we talk. The worst thing you can do is nothing.

I came across this old favourite of mine recently and adopted it as my anthem, Don’t Let Life Get You Down by Lionel Morten. To me it is typical ‘70s but the advice is as good today as it was then.

Declan

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