22 January 2011

You Will Never Get Those Minutes Again

Andrew Solomon has this to say about depression in his book The Noonday Demon:
The most important thing to remember during a depression is this: you do not get the time back. It is not tacked on at the end of your life to make up for the disaster years. Whatever time is eaten by the depression is gone forever.... No matter how bad you feel, you have to do everything you can to keep living, even if all you can do for the moment is to breathe. Wait it out and occupy the time of waiting as fully as you possibly can.... you will never get those minutes again (p. 430).
This is true not only of depression, but of any disability, any chronic or recurring disease.

I try to live it myself, but it's a lesson that bears repeating and constantly needs re-learning. I remember my mother commenting, after some teenage disappointment or other, "It builds character," and I responded, "Don't I have enough character already?"

I'm in the long process of teaching it to my son: we send him to school no matter how crappy he's feeling from the asthma and the night-time wakings and the side effects of the medications. (Don't totally jump down my throat: we do keep him home when he's sick with other stuff, especially if it's contagious.)

But it's hard. It's hard in myriad different ways depending on the nature of the disease. I read a blog post a few weeks ago (and I wish I could find it again so I could link to it) that suggested that managing disability is a job, and that really struck home for me. I juggle work and parenting, and disease and its manifestations -- my own, and my son's -- are a couple of other balls up in the air.

But the important thing is to keep living. I keep seeing variations on the sentiment, "Health isn't the most important thing -- it's the only thing." But it's not.

Keeping on going even when health is absent: for those with chronic illness, that's the only thing.