Depression and the circle of sadness

As I’ve mentioned before, my husband struggles with depression.  His is a disease that comes on strong and hard and completely disables him for months, only to lift leaving him the same vibrant man he was before the episode hit.  It is really hard for me, who has never experienced the depth of his anguish, to relate.  Thank goodness for animated movies!

We saw Inside Out when it was released, and were blown away.  It was such a great movie and gave us such an age appropriate vocabulary to talk about feelings with our daughter.  (Cause, you know, two engineer parents don’t necessarily excel at talking about feelings.  We excel about talking about Excel, the spreadsheet tool.)  It’s great to be able to say to the seven year old Afthead, “Hey, what’s going on?  It seems like Fear has taken over the control panel.”

But the most enlightening conversation came about with my husband.  We were chatting about a specific part of the movie when Joy tries to ensure Sadness won’t interfere with Riley’s first day at a new school.  Joy gives everyone a job (Fear has to come up with the worst possible scenarios, Disgust has to help with friends) and Sadness’s job is to “stay in the circle.”  Joy draws a circle on the floor and pushes Sadness into it.   Of course, Sadness doesn’t stay in her circle and causes Riley to cry at school.

My comment to my husband was, “Too bad your Joy can’t shove  your Sadness into a circle.”

He replied, “Oh, my Sadness always stays in his circle, but when he escapes he’s impossible to get back in.”

It was an incredible vision into my husband’s brain.  He is a man guided by Joy, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, but Sadness isn’t really his thing.  I’ve only seen him cry once, and it was when he was depressed.  He doesn’t really do sadness, which just makes his depressive episodes that much more disconcerting.  But it makes total sense when viewed in the Inside Out context.  Sadness gets out of his circle, and takes hold of the controls and only he and Fear run my husband’s brain.  His normal forceful Anger, Joy and Disgust are gone, pushed aside by Sadness.  Eventually time and drugs wear Sadness out and he heads back to his circle to hibernate for years, decades if we are lucky.

Still, I don’t understand his depth of anguish.  Still, I can’t put myself in his shoes, but finally, I have a metaphor for his pain, and a wish.  I hope his Sadness stays in the circle for a long, long time.