This past weekend, I felt confident I would run a full 10K (6.2 miles) in a decent time. I had trained to finish. The last four weeks or so saw me doing long runs at or about 10K. During this time I also ran intervals and lifted weights. So, I saw myself as basically in shape, just a bit heavy.
Well, I stank up the race. I ran a decent two miles in the sun and humidity before becoming totally fatigued. I wound up walking most of the middle part of the course. I ran the last mile or so at a good clip and finished strong, but otherwise I'm totally bummed at my performance. Was I not really ready to run the race? Was the heat and humidity too much for me? Had I not tapered in the final week like I should have?
My thinking is that I should have focused more on hydration in the final 1-2 weeks of training. I should have been less strenuous in my lifting routine. Finally, I should have refrained from running intervals on the Friday before the race. So yeah, I'm bummed. But I can make peace with a failure and move on. In fact, I'm looking forward to redeeming myself in another race.
I share this reflection because it highlights the difference between me and the depressives I live with, my wife and eight-year-old daughter. It's taken me a long time to figure out what depression is (and is not) but I think I now have a decent handle on it. Basically, depression is an inability to function as one would be able to otherwise. It's rooted in being overwhelmed and over-stressed. It's marked by a lingering sense that there's nothing that can be done about a certain set of circumstances. It's not just feeling personally helpless but feeling oppressed by conditions such that no one can make them better.
An example, an evaluation of my eight-year-old revealed that she feels depressed about her three-year-old brother's autism. She knows that when he gets upset, the whole house is affected. It gets stressful and loud, and it's hard to smile. This situation affects my daughter profoundly. It's not just mood but ability to focus and to engage life as it happens. Often, she feels that the situation will not get better, that there's nothing she or any of us can really do to fix things.
A few depression quotes:
"Depression is the inability to construct a future."I cannot speak first-hand about the experiences and thinking that my wife and daughter go through when they are depressed. I have a hard time relating to what I think is going on with them because even when I feel "helpless," I often can make peace with the situation and find another outlet for balancing myself. I have only rarely felt as though I wasn't able to lock in on an activity to get my swagger back.
-- Rollo May
"If depression is creeping up and must be faced, learn something about the nature of the beast: You may escape without a mauling."
-- Dr. R. W. Shepherd
"A lot of people don't realize that depression is an illness. I don't wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it."
-- Jonathan Davis
"That's the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key."
-- Elizabeth Wurtzel
Making peace is what I want for my wife and daughter. I am optimistic that with the help of therapy, both of them will find ways to make peace with depression. I don't think the depression will ever fully go away for either of them. It's part of the hard-wiring of their brains, brought out by particular stresses in our lives. Yet all of us can learn to live with it, if not embrace it. We can learn to recognize it and not be overwhelmed by it.