"What I've got they used to call the blues; nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don't belong … Walking around, some kind of lonely clown … Rainy days and Monday always get me down.”
That '70s hit was sung by brother/sister duo, “The Carpenters.” What I've personally been feeling lately though, is not what they call the blues, and something really is wrong.
My computer dictionary describes depression as “…a persistent feeling of unhappiness and hopelessness,” listing symptoms like, “…dejection, poor concentration, lack of energy, inability to sleep, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.”
It's not like these feelings are total strangers; they've visited me every five years or so since I was 19. Like the Carpenter's second verse, “What I feel has come and gone before; no need to talk it out; we know what it's all about. Walking around, nothing to do but frown, rainy days and Mondays …”
My depression has nothing to do with the weather, but today's thunderstorms clapped an undeniable analogy.
When I took my dogs for a Sunday walk to the nearby canal, the sun was shining. But within half-hour, we were stumbling back up that muddy hill being pelted by chilling rain and threatened by thunder and lightning.
That's how the segue from wellness to depression seems. So warm and pleasant, it's difficult to imagine rain ever falling again. But suddenly there's instability in the air, dark clouds hovering low, howling winds, pouring rain and thunder rumbling dire warnings. The daily forecast is always, “Unseasonably cold, wet and dark,” with emergency storm warnings, “Seek refuge immediately and don't venture outside.”
The '70s song lyrics circling my mind lately is Terry Jacks' Seasons in the Sun: “Goodbye to you my trusted friend. We've known each other since we were 9 or 10. Together we climbed hills or trees, learned of love and ABCs, skinned our hearts and skinned our knees. Goodbye my friend it's hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky. Now that spring is in the air, pretty girls are everywhere, when you see them I'll be there … We had joy we had fun, we had seasons in the sun, but the hills that we climbed, were just seasons out of time…”
One of my most trusted boyhood friends is Lester Stephenson. Of all our Pennsylvania Conemaugh Township High '72 graduates, Les is undoubtedly the most financially successful. After owning restaurants and hotels all over the country, several years ago he moved back home and bought a local business. When I was visiting my dying Mom in April, we got together. I e-mailed Les last week, telling him that my “thoughts in knots” that began that week still remain without remedy.
Part of Les' thoughtful, empathetic reply was, “Yeah Doug, I think we all go thru some things you're experiencing.
Maybe it's our age or circumstances, old memories, missing lost loved ones, etc. I know your OCD probably intensifies it, but I believe this is kind of a crucial time in our lives. We're not young, we're not old, we've achieved some things, haven't achieved others, miss the guidance and steadiness of those we've lost. I don't know — I think it's a screwed up age to be!
“One of the reasons I moved back from Atlanta was because I was starting to feel lost. I was struggling with my faith, the way I felt about myself, priorities, etc. I needed to get back to something familiar…”
Once in the late '90s, I felt my regular Cody crew had disrespected me the previous day at the gym. Next day I arrived announcing, “You have killed the clown. The clown is dead!” I was half-jokingly threatening to not be the group jester any longer since my feelings had been hurt. It didn't last long though; a clown must perform.
These last few months, I've felt like the class clown inside me has literally been murdered and replaced by an insecure bully — a confused and frightened introvert.
My favorite song in 1971 ended with, “Now looking back over the years, and whatever else that appears; I remember I cried when my father died, never wishing to hide the tears. And at 65 years old, my mother God rest her soul — couldn't understand why the only man, she had ever loved had been taken, leaving her to start with a heart so badly broken…” “… And when she passed away, I cried and cried all dayyyy. Alone again… naturally.”
I cried the day Mom died this spring, just like I'm sure she cried all day when my sister Wanda died in '05 and sister Brenda died last year. Maybe too much death is what triggered this mystifying presence back into my life; who knows?
But until the clown inside me can be resurrected, I have warm memories of Mom, Dad, Wanda and Brenda — and great old song lyrics to walk me through this raging storm inside my head.