What we desperately avoid is likely what we need to embrace most of all.
A pillow over my head, trying to keep out any light and sound, I lay there ruminating over my state of affairs. My finances, my work, my relationships, the seemingly constant illusive pursuit for happiness and purpose. Again, I had slept a total of two broken hours through the night. The previous evening while walking home from work I exploded into tears, crying for reasons I couldn’t grasp, or reasons I couldn’t accept. After all, men don’t cry. Men need to be strong, the emotional rock. Men certainly don’t become blubbering idiots while walking down the street. And of course I told myself this, “man up”, “get some perspective”, “stop being such a fool”. The internal brow beating did nothing but make the situation worse, pushing me further into a state of self pity and eventual anger. Until – shut down.
And there I lay, the following morning, feeling like I was falling apart and what kept going through my mind was that I’ve been here before. This is where I live. I’ve been ignoring the stress, the anxiety, the insomnia, the constant ruminating, the fear, the lack of interest, the constant need to – shut down, for years. I look into my past, to investigate, to try and find some clarity in the chaos. The reality of the situation was a hard slap in the face. For decades I’ve been depressed, not all the time, but periods of months and even years starting in my teens. What concerns me as I write this is the periods are closer together and are more easily triggered. I realize I’ve been swallowing my issues and emotions since childhood. I’m a very emotional and sensitive person and I’ve always hated that part of myself, believing it’s a sign of weakness, a sign of not being a real man. As a result I don’t let my emotions show, I don’t ask for help, I try to resolve within my head – fighting my heart. And now I’m accepting I’m broken, damaged, my mind is injured and it’s time to deal with it. There’s no more room to bury my feelings, my self.
In the past I’ve dealt by distraction. Throwing myself in my work, throwing all of me in relationships, training for Ironmans or other endurance events. The result has been failed work because it isn’t my calling, failed relationships because I can’t connect with intimacy and I lose myself in others, and over-use injuries from pushing my training to the point of breaking. Interesting when I really sit back and look at the journey, how the pattern cycles through every few years and will continue to do so until I get off this roller coaster and deal. Things fall apart, the mind and body break down, to force us to evaluate what we’re doing, to force us to recognize we’ve disconnected from our core, our source.
There I go, avoiding again with too many words. The first step is to admit and accept I have a problem. I suffer from Depression. Done. If I muster the courage to post this I’ll likely want to shut down afterwards. Hide and hope sharing doesn’t push me further away.
One thing I’d like to make clear, I’m not sharing this issue and my thoughts to gain attention or sympathy. I’ve contemplated this for quite some time, and too many events have occurred that point me to a need or responsibility to share. I’m dealing with these things for a reason, I write for a reason. If I can’t share my own story in the hopes of it serving someone else then I should stop writing. Depression is a serious issue. According to some stats, over 14 million Americans and 121 million people worldwide suffer from Depression and the number increases by 20% each year. I’m not part of those stats and I suspect far more like myself never seek help because of a stigma that may fall upon them. We worry about how admission or seeking help will impact our work relationships, our intimate relationships, how our buddies will perceive us. Part of what I’ve identified in this process is I spend far too much time worrying about what others think and as a result sacrifice being who I am.
Next is to seek out help. I’ve seen my physician and I’m reading quite a bit and I’m putting a plan together to get in front of this. To stop letting it rule and ruin my life, but instead create the habits and strength to live with it until I heal myself.
I’m trying to accept, embrace, and create habits of change. That’s where I am now. If any of this resonates with you, be brave, show yourself compassion, and know you’re not alone. I’m going to get back the life that is mine, and so can you!