I was going to do this in a Facebook post, but I think it’d be a little lengthy to post there. I’m going to set aside my normal, light-hearted post to talk about a subject that hits really close to home—a little straight talk, if you will. When I say “close to home”, I really mean it. It’s something I struggle with personally; two of my kids struggle with it. My wife deals with it. It’s depression.
Millions of Americans have depression, officially diagnosed or not. Many take drugs for it. Others don’t. There are those who resort to illicit drugs or alcohol to numb the pain of their depression. Then there are the ones who take the drastic step of ending their lives, as the depression is too great for them. Two recent and famous examples are Robin Williams and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington.
There are those who believe a person with depression just lives moping all day, just sad and miserable. Some, yes, live huddled on a bed not wanting to do anything. Others, like Williams and Bennington, show no outward signs. Williams made a career of entertaining people and making them laugh. One of Bennington’s last pictures was of him smiling, looking out at the ocean with his kids. Judging by outward appearances, they looked great.
Shifting the focus a bit now. Anyone who knows me or sees me on a consistent basis probably couldn’t tell that I have depression. A little side note: I normally won’t reveal when I write these posts, as that’s irrelevant. The current time, as I write this is Thursday, 19 Sept 2019 at 21:10. I went to a doctor today. He goes to the local Volunteer Clinic twice a month. He’s retired, but his specialty was pediatric mental health. Anyway, I talked briefly with him this afternoon. He said that I definitely have depression, and that it is actually in the severe category. Yeah, I don’t act like it most of the time—I hide it fairly well beneath my nonchalant facade. I have been prescribed some Zoloft, a low dose to start with, eventually increasing the dose. Also, beginning on 17 October, I will be seeing a counselor at the clinic. I am a huge homebody; I don’t do anything with anyone, nor do I ever talk to anyone in general. As such, I am extremely adept at keeping everything to myself (that’s the introvert and Virgo in me), until those occasions where bottling everything up finally fails and the pressure gets released, normally in a big ball of emotion, as what happened to me at work roughly a month ago when between several factors, I had a mental breakdown, had to talk to a manager for several minutes, just spewing what was bothering me, and having to take the following day off, just for my mental health sake.
So, I will be beginning to talk to a counselor, hopefully letting off a lot of what’s been on my mind. Even with talking to someone occasionally, there’s still a shit-ton of things in my brain that I don’t believe I’ve ever told anyone, ever. Perhaps some of those things will surface themselves.
So yeah, I have severe depression. It’s not like some think, the “oh, you’re just sad, man up”. In society, men are expected to be extraverted, macho, alpha dudes. If a man is introverted or shows emotion, it’s considered a sign of weakness. A person can have depression, but work normally and look like everything is hunky-dory. In actuality, we’re not “just sad”; there’s something really wrong in the mind.
I hold two jobs, I still eat, even though not exactly healthy. However, I am downing two to four energy drinks a day. I also don’t have the energy or ambition to do many things I enjoyed, such as baking. This has been even since before starting my second job. I often feel like I’m a failure or that I’m somehow not a good dad because I can’t do things with my kids like I have in the past. Sometimes something happens at work, and I feel like I’m not doing an adequate job. I have absolutely no self-esteem. I hate hearing recordings of my voice and I loathe pictures of myself. I wish I were like a vampire and had no reflection at times. This may sound silly or whatever you want to call it, but I hate myself. Oftentimes, I have thought everything and everyone would be better off if I didn’t exist anymore. Obviously, I haven’t had the courage to do it. I know that my kids would suffer the most should that ever happen. Rather than wanting to do it myself, I have imagined countless times another car crashing into my driver’s door, or seeing my vehicle wrapped around a telephone pole. For better or worse, it hasn’t happened yet. To be bluntly honest, yes, those thoughts have crossed my mind. I won’t lie and say “no, I never think about that”. Yes I have. Too many times to count. If that makes me a bad person, then I’m a bad person. There’s a huge difference between thought and action.
This is one reason why I have seen a doctor for my mental health. I’ve dealt with my mental demons for many years. I’m almost always putting my family before me. I take care of them, neglecting myself. It’s like I’m putting gas in everyone else’s tanks from my own tank. Well, my gas tank is empty. I can’t give to others what I don’t have. I’ve cared for other people and neglected my own well-being. I just turned 47 two weeks ago; now it’s my turn to get taken care of. All I want is some happiness again. Not all my days are terrible ones. Some days turn out okay. Even though I may have one or two good days periodically, the demons are always there. The thoughts and depression never goes away completely. They lie waiting for their moment to strike again, not unlike the lion waiting patiently for the right moment to strike and make the kill. Depression is my lion, the predator waiting to attack me.
Depression is not a pretty or happy subject. It’s not fun. It’s hard. It’s ugly. It’s all over the place. It’s real. It can be dangerous. It can be deadly. Society needs to deal with depression and mental health head on. People can’t just play the ostrich and bury their heads in the sand. People can’t just cover their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist or that it’ll just go away on its own. Few want to address depression because you can’t just buy the problem away. Faking a smile and pretending everything is dandy is like putting a bandaid on a crack in a dam. I hope someday depression gets the proper attention and care we need and deserve.
I hope after reading this you have a little more awareness of the seriousness of depression, and that you see that anyone can be depressed, even if it doesn’t seem like it. And that it can happen to anyone, anywhere. Chances are you know someone who has depression—after all, I have it. If you don’t, then thank your supreme deity being (if you’re religious) or thank your lucky stars if you’re not religiously inclined. Take it from someone who has depression, it’s not at all fun, it’s not just sadness. Sometimes it’s a real struggle to go from one day to the next, to continue on.
As things progress, I will make quick comments on my social media pages, maybe for the blog, maybe my personal pages. My desire is for things to get better for me, that my mental health improves. It won’t happen right away, but hopefully there will be improvement. As for all of you, please be safe and be well.