Perhaps it’s because the medical fraternity is trying to up our awareness of mental illness, that the doctor asks me if I’m depressed.
I may have rolled my eyes. I certainly sighed. This again.
‘No, I’m not depressed.’
‘But the tiredness…’
‘I have been depressed,’ I said, ‘I know what feels like. I have joy and I have hope, I am not depressed.’
There is nothing good to be found in depression only blackness, stasis and fear. I remember it and I don’t like to. That’s why I’m crying: the depression question and my exhausted reality.
The doctor saw my tears, tilted his head, a question was coming and I saw it off.
‘I’m sad. My sister died. I’m sad. Sad is not depressed. She’s still dead and I’m allowed to be sad.’ I’ve got my own tissues, I try not to leave home without them, I scrabbled around in my bag and he waited for me.
Okay, I look like Hell. I know it. I’m not getting any exercise, I pumped both my bikes’ tires up the other day, they’re ready and I’m waiting.
You look better when you get regular exercise. Not just how your clothes fit, but how you feel, like you can ride up a hill if it’s required, run to the bus if you have to, have a jump on the trampoline with your son if you’re invited. Endorphins, strength, vitamin D, an outlet; they look good. My skin isn’t the best, dry, pallid if I want to go harder on myself. And I’m sad. I’m not the biggest smiler you’ve ever met and lately I’ve been smiling less because I’m worrying about Libby’s year anniversary. I’m wearing my worry face-style.
The doctor returned to his computer, turned the screen toward me.
‘Anyway,’ I continued, ‘the symptoms I have are physical. Sore legs, hard breathing, you don’t get sore legs from depression.’
‘No, you don’t.’
The doctor went back to the facts and figures of my last blood test and pointed out his difficulty. ‘See, you’re not that anemic (i’m paraphrasing). Sure, the iron number is low, but we look at all these numbers in combination (still paraphrasing). There has to be something else.’
For once a doctor was telling me proper details. I’d started to believe I had one of those will-not-understand-any-numerical-concepts faces. I told him that he was making me feel like I was doing anemia wrong. I don’t usually stick up for myself but the time for taking crap was over.
He ordered more blood tests, some the same as last time and some different ones, I askedhim what he was testing for and he didn’t seem to want to tell me, ‘autoimmune’ he said, practically under his breath (he probably thought I was going to go straight home and spend the night Googling)(he was right, but it wasn’t all night).
‘I’m not depressed,’ I took the referrals for a blood test and a chest x-ray.
He’s a good doctor, he’s asking questions, he’s more interested than the last doctor I saw, I’ll get the tests, we’ll take it from there.
Talk of depression can’t you make depressed, right?
I walked back to the car having rebuffed the doctor’s suggestion and wondered. Am I depressed? It’s a miracle I’m not depressed. I can’t ride my bike. That might not sound like much, but I ride off-road, in the bush. Nature, sweat, hills, high-up views and connecting with what’s going on in my head, or not connecting and simply riding. I need it. My writing is not going the great guns I want it to, it’s going small guns with tiny handles you can hardly get a finger through, but it is going. And Libby, I miss her more than I can say.
I bloody well should be depressed.
But there is hope. Blood tests will reveal something, it’ll have a name and there will be steps to take. There is my sons, relationships, ideas. A new day.
Who knows, tomorrow I may ride. I’ll park at the bottom of the hill and make my way up, it will be slow but being there will be the difference. I’ll plan rest stops. The trail will have changed again in the time I haven’t been there and I’ll notice the changes, more leaves because they’re dropping, more rocks because someone’s be round before me; erosion, time, imprint. I’ll keep going up the hill, I’ll be rusty and my lines will be poor, I expect that, I’ll need to put a bit more into in, get the old legs working. Make ‘em sore.
Depression doesn’t cause sore legs, Doc.
there she is, lying down on the job. good on her.