The Dangerous Sadness

04Not that many years ago, I grew very sad. So I threw myself into work as a distraction. I separated myself from my family, maintaining only a few friends. I tried not to care anymore, for anyone or anything, because that would surely cure the sadness.

It all seemed to happen pretty quickly. In just a couple of years, The Grim Reaper had run roughshod through my relatives. I had a relationship completely disintegrate, one I had invested a considerable amount in. My business had fallen apart. I landed in a city where I knew exactly one person.

I lost all passion for the arts, a major motivator of my life, and numbed all sense of caring about myself, my family, and my career. I flitted from bar-tending job to serving job to bouncing job, drank too much, smoked too much, and ate nothing but bad food.

I cared less and less about anything and everything. My apartments became less and less impressive, my landlords less and less ethical, and my personal upkeep faltered. Soon, I was living in a shitty bachelor pad on the ground floor behind a general store. Laundry and beer bottles littered the floor. I was a mess in every sense of the word.

I casually ignored my father. I decided I would never seriously date again so visited unthinking cruelties upon whomever I did date, and drove my friends away more than once. Had you asked then about my sadness, I’d have given you a blank look, “Huh? Sadness?”

In May of 2007 I was playing baseball when I collided face first with another guy’s elbow chasing down a pop fly. I did not know it, but I cracked a tooth. It abscessed, and shortly afterwards I became deathly ill. I would spend the next two months in the hospital.

Hospital time literally served to detox and reboot my system. I was forced to reflect upon who I was, where I had been, and the path I was taking. Slowly I found myself again. Or, more accurately, realized I needed to find myself. It would still take years for my experiences to sink in. I am still learning to this day.

I had allowed everything to pile up on me. Although it is easy to see now, at the time, I didn’t realize how much trouble I was actually in. I had sunk into a deep and dangerous sadness. I didn’t know that I was depressed.

What makes sadness so dangerous is how it can creep up on you, and stay with you, and turn into depression. You become accustomed to it and even accept it. You’re just in a funk. On a bad run. You got the blues. No big deal.

Or you live in denial. Everything’s fine. Paste on a fake face. Hope nobody will see past it. If they do, if they ask, you will crumble like a demolished skyscraper. Straight down, in a million pieces.

Maybe you tell someone. Maybe they take you seriously, but you’re afraid they won’t. I wanted to be seen as a big strong man. Can’t ruin my image, now, can I? People will talk about me. Maybe they’ll laugh. Call me a whiner. Shame awaited me.

So I held it all in. Figured I was fooling everyone. Told myself I just wanted to be alone, but in reality, I was just lonely. In the end, the only person I was fooling was me. It took nearly dying, having my friends and family come to my side and lift me up, to make me start to face the problem.

The dangerous sadness is heavy, but increases in small amounts. After a while it is all you are bearing. It affects all decisions, all relationships. It changes how you see things, how you experience things, how you even think. It hurts to talk, to walk, to even breathe. You are the proverbial frog in the pot of cold water, not noticing how it’s now boiling and lethal, as this happened gradually.

It isn’t until it is lifted that you see how dangerous the sadness is. You can only clearly see the damage it has done in hindsight. When you’re mired in it, you might have a semblance of how bad it is, or how bad it will be, but you don’t really see the full danger.

I was lucky. I escaped with my life. I healed, moved on, and thanks to my family and friends, became my old self again. But it took a hospital stay and nearly losing my life to make that so. And it could happen to me again. At anytime.

It can happen to you too. Depression is no more a choice than Diabetes is. You can’t “snap out of it” or “get over it” any more than you could a broken arm. Previous to my depression, I had enjoyed a charmed and carefree life. I never thought I would be a target for this dangerous sadness. The truth is simply that everyone is. Even the seemingly happiest and most successful people can die from it.

Depression kills. Sadness destroys. It is difficult to see the onset of it, and excruciating to escape. Mental health is not a niche issue. It affects everyone. Yes, even you. The dangerous sadness affects everyone differently, to boot. This is my fumbling attempt to convey how it affected me. Your experience may be different, but it is no less valid.

You may not be aware that you are depressed. You may know it too well. Reflect. Look to your past, and see if it can show you where your future path is taking you. Talk to your friends and your family. No, you won’t be able to do it alone.

Don’t succumb to this dangerous sadness. You can do it. Find some help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

“Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all its students.”
~ Robin Williams (1951-2014)


Chad R. MacDonald

Chad R. MacDonald has a degree in English Literature from Cape Breton University and subsequently received a full scholarship to AMDA in New York. He is a former security professional, a veteran of the hospitality industry, and experienced in administration and the arts. He loves baseball, hockey, marine photography, science, New York City, and his family.
He lives in Hell's Kitchen with his wife and son and their gigantic cat.
Chad also writes for spoiledNYC.com, quietmike.org, and contributes at politicalmoll.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ChadMac19 and on Facebook as well!

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  • Laura Hurt

    good piece Chad. Thanks for sharing that. Having chronic depression myself, I know it from the inside out.

  • CLoy

    Severe, recurrent depression sounded impressive. All I knew was it didn’t matter. Nothing did. Nothing brought meaning. It took too much energy to do anything that wasn’t routine. Joy was a distant and surely odd memory.
    Each person is different but depression for me was not sad at all. It was more apathetic.

    Glad you were able to break out. For those who haven’t, talk to someone, at least TRY the meds and therapy, don’t give up. It does get better.

  • Arik Bjorn

    SLOW. CLAP. Honesty, the best defense against everything the Universe can throw at us.

  • Pipercat

    It’s called a walkabout. More metaphorical than literal, mine was in 2006 that ended a five year funk. I described it in a very early writing attempt like this:

    “I split in two: the one who is and the one who was. I lost the one who was. So, I decided to walkabout. At the end of journey, the one who is found the one who was. The two halves came together creating a different me. The one I am now.”

    Acute depression can be as real and dangerous as the chronic version. Glad you found yourself Chad. To this day, the disassociation I felt back then has turned into an anti-disassociation of sorts. I remember the events, but cannot place myself in the memories.

  • Matthew Reece

    I think that if anyone or anything is to blame for the death of Robin Williams, it is his two ex-wives who used the misandrist family court system to extort money out of him, which forced him to take acting jobs he did not want just to stay out of jail for non-payment. I think just about anyone could become suicidally depressed in a situation like that. My hope is that the evil of excessive alimony will be addressed in his memory.

    • Are you kidding with this? A scan of your Disqus profile shows you’re not.

      Anyone who clicks on your name can see you forward a misogynistic agenda, Matthew. This comment has nothing to do with the topic at hand, and speaks to your twisted worldview instead.

      I won’t answer to any reply you make. People who think like you are absolutely disgusting.

      Begone.

      • Matthew Reece

        If my agenda is misogynistic, then the agenda of every feminist is misandristic.

        Argumentum ad lapidem is an admission of defeat and ignorance.

  • SpeakingOutHere

    Be careful who you share with. A counselor or therapist, someone you Really can trust. Betrayed confidences by family members created more depression for me. Some people are not able to deal with such a burden, or be confidants. My fragile state was used against me by a family member intent on continuing their manipulation tactics. They can’t handle the fact that I am better now! I hold my head up and don’t feel ashamed anymore. Thanks Chad for sharing!