Maybe Not “Ha Ha” Funny…Posted on Sun, Dec 11, 2011


Depression can be a funny thing.

I used to think of sadness as something to be avoided at all costs, because when I’d get sad, I made a meal of it. I’d lay down and roll around in it, sometimes for days.

Then I learned sadness you can’t move through is not sadness, it’s depression. We all get sad, and it’s healthy. We need to work out what we’re feeling and come out the other end. Back when we were in high school, when we were all depressed… and you were, admit it… it was almost good because it gave us a chance to learn how to deal with it while we were still surrounded by people who cared about us.

Depression, and I really hate that word, begins to color your world to fit the sadness. Things are unfair, it’s all too much, I’m drowning – and I’ll never be happy again.

Probably first on my list of “Then why didn’t you mention this before!?” as it relates to cancer and the treatment thereof is Physiological Depression.

About two months after my initial surgery, and a little bit into my radiation treatment, I started going downhill. And when you’re going downhill, you don’t really notice it yourself. You know you’re feeling bad, but you think it’s entirely normal, and why won’t people just leave you the hell alone? Why are you telling me about that, my leg hurts! I’m dealing with a lot of crap right now, and it’s all in my head, so just go away and let me deal with it, WHY WON’T YOU LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE?

Once I was convinced to go get help, my psychologist at the cancer center put me in touch with a psychiatrist, who informed me that it is entirely normal for cancer patients, and anyone dealing with pain on a long-term basis, to suffer from a Physiological Depression.

Then why didn’t you mention that before?

While I loved talking about all my problems to the psychologist, the psychiatrist couldn’t care less about them. They deal with the chemistry of the body, and we had a long talk about how the body worked, and it was highly informative and gave me a sense of freedom. Turns out, the only thing psychological about Physiological Depression are the symptoms. The root of it is in physical Pain.

Pain is a funny thing. There is no actual gradient to it, when you discount the discomfort most people call pain. I mean Pain. Capital P pain. Our bodies evolved, or were designed with – your choice, to deal with vastly different problems than what we have to deal with today. Pain, for example, is our body’s way of telling us “DANGER! PAY ATTENTION! LION IS CHEWING ON YOUR LEG!”. Once this information was received by our conscious mind, we had to do something about it, like hitting it with a rather large rock. And in all likelihood, we would soon die from the infection caused by the lion’s gingivitis.

Because of that soon-to-be-dead aspect of that situation, what Pain was not designed to do was linger. Our bodies have no mechanism for dealing with Pain (remember, the capital P kind) on a long-term basis. When we have this pain, our bodies kick in with some great chemicals and endorphins to allow us to push the pain to the side and function, like picking up that rock.

But the glands that excrete these wonder-juices have limitations, and eventually they get exhausted and run out of steam. And you’re still in Pain. Your body is still telling you that the lion is still chomping on your leg and why the hell aren’t you doing anything about it?

That is the point at when you cross the line into Physiological Depression. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. I believe that we have a soul, a brightness that we are meant to shine into the darkness and vastness of this Universe where we live, but at the end of the day, our bodies are walking bag of self-regulating chemicals and it’s not your fault. Your body has done everything it was designed to do and it just isn’t enough, through no fault of your own.

This is when the drugs come into the picture. I resisted going on psychological medication for so long, feeling that if I took them, I would be admitting defeat. That I lost, and the cancer won, and I was too weak to make it.

This is just your ego bullshitting you, because it wants to keep having a field day wallowing in its self-pity. Because what is the ego but what puts you at the center of the universe, and everything happens to you and because of you and as a result of you. You can’t get outside yourself to realize it’s not all about you, it’s just the world and it hasn’t changed just because you got sick. It is still a happy, terrible, inspiring, creepy and all-around strange place to live. And you haven’t changed, not really. You have a new set of priorities which involve not dying. I can even write this as a to-do list for you:

Things do Do When You Have Cancer:

1. Don’t die.

2. Get better.

…and the rest is just there to distract you from the Pain.

Categorized as Medical Fun!

About the Author

An actor trained in physical theater, living in New York City, livin' the dream. I am married to an amazing woman without whom I'd probably be dead by now, and step-dad to the irrepressible Izzy! I sculpt masks, I juggle, I act, I design graphically-type-stuff, and when offered the choice between two evils, I take the one I've never tried before. I listen, I fly planes, I bike to the beach, I am a tea brewing ninja, I design new board games with my daughter, and I tell stories... too many stories. And while I used to be trying to learn to juggle my work, living in this city, my dreams, my wife, but now I am reminded every day they are all one, all my life, and every day is one more day I get to live it.

Comments (One Response)

  • Cousin Donna says:

    Hi Cousin Ben!

    I hate computers! But Aunt Barb has been updating us on your life! You choose interesting ways… Your wife is beyond beautiful inside and out! And Issy is truly wonderful in all pictures I have seen on this computer thingy phone. I pray you get well every day since I first found out about your leg, then lung, and now this… You have a since of humor to laugh this painful disease off, from time to time, keep happy any way you can!!! Drop a line if you can, looking forward to seeing you and your beautiful family when you are fully healthy!!! Xoxo Cousin Donna : )

All Content © Zipperleg Chronicles 2013 - Except for most of the photos, those are taken from the Internet. Sorry.
I am not a doctor, so none of my ramblings should be taken as medical fact.
Your milage may vary.