Saturday, February 03, 2007


Have you ever noticed the difference in the way men and women sneeze? My wife sneezes like a mouse. An ever so soft "aachoo." I tell her, "If I wasn't going to sneeze more than that, I would just give it up." She says, "If mine were like yours, I would blow my brains out." I'll admit that my nose expulsion is just like that of the Ward men before me. It's loud enough to bring the Home Land Security boys down on my home. When I was a child, my Dad would sneeze and I would say, "That scared me, Daddy." His reply was always the same. "It scared me too!!"

Yesterday, a sniffling co-worker of mine was in my office when she called her boyfriend. In a couple of minutes, she said goodbye to her "honey." I then quoted one of my favorite boyhood poems. I said, "Toni, you should learn this poem. If you're out with your honey, and your nose is kind of runny, you might think it's funny, but it's snot." Not having heard all of my old material, she thought that bit of doggerel was original with me. Hey, if people want to give me credit for fine poetry, who am I to object?

We're now coming into the cold season. It's my least favorite time of the year. If I get a bad head cold, I'm ready to die. Hasn't happened yet, but you never know. The real problem with a head cold is that you are not sick enough to stay home, but you're too sick to go to work. That's why I much prefer to have the flu. Everyone knows that the flu is serious enough to disable you, keep you in bed for a few days, force you to read your favorite books and to watch some awful television programming. That's why I'll take the flu over a bad head cold anytime.

There is a type of depression that is similar to having a killer cold. It's called Dysthymia, and like the bad cold, it doesn't totally incapacitate you, it may not be all that noticeable to other people, but it makes you feel miserable all over. Dysthymia may be one of the most under diagnosed forms of depression, simply because it's not serious enough to capture any one's attention.

This illness masquerades as a grumpy disposition, fatigue, sleepiness (or insomnia) and a diminished interest in things formerly enjoyed. You are just not "up to snuff," as my father would say. It's not a black condition, but it does have some ugly shades of gray. Although a person only needs to be mildly depressed for two years to qualify for a diagnosis of dysthymia, many people have had this illness for years. They, and the people who know them, just accept the disease as a normal part of their presenting personality. If that's all that you have ever known, it's all you ever know.

Personally, I believe that many of my "good" days are dysthymic. If you are frequently deeply depressed as I am, then a period of moderate chronic Dysthymia is seen as a time of blessing. You are happy to see it come, because it is so much better than what you usually experience. People who live with this illness are high-functioning. They go to work, love their spouses, play with their kids, and visit with their friends, but every facet of life is diminished. It's like living in cloudy Alaska where sunny days are as rare as beautiful boxers.

The good news is that Dysthymia is much easier to treat and bring under control than most of the other forms of depression. Your quality of life will probably be much improved with proper treatment. That's why you or someone who cares about you should explore this possibility with a medical professional. It's just not necessary for you to go through life with "bad cold" depression.

Don't be fooled by Dysthymia. "Even in laughter, the heart may ache...(Proverbs 14:10)."

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]


brian said...

for someone recently diagnosed with dysthymia, that was helpful, interesting, and encouraging.

Neva said...

Enjoyed the post very much. I was a psych social worker for several years. Mental illness and it's effects are so devastating and our inability to understand cripples our ministry. Thank you for the information---would that all christians would choose to be educated about these matters.