This one is kinda long, just so you know, but I need to say all of it.
This is how depression sometimes feels to me:
Sometimes, life gets so overwhelming, I can literally feel The Weight of Everything. My shoulders slump. My sides hurt. It actually feels like the boulder is about to flatten me.
I get to thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made and continue making in my life, couple that with all the many ways I feel inadequate as a human being, and finally, contemplate all the wrong there is in this world, and how truly hopeless it all seems, and that big rock is almost too much to hold. It’s a chain reaction of negativity that, unfortunately, is easily ignited.
This, also, is how depression sometimes feels to me:
I’m at the bottom of this deep, dark pit, and I can see light way up above me, but I have little hope of making it to that light, because it’s just so far up, and the climb looks almost impossible.
And nobody knows I’m down there, because I don’t let anybody know. How screwed up is that? But, when you’re depressed, you have a good (you think) explanation, which I’ll get to later.
It’s been determined that the average adult human brain takes up 1400 cubic centimeters, or .05 cubic feet.
Doesn’t sound like that large a prison cell, does it? I’m telling you, though, when you suffer from depression, it’s plenty big enough.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to My Life.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression back in 2003, and have been taking medication for it ever since. I don’t know for sure if it’s hereditary, but some members of my family on my father’s side were and are afflicted with it. Tragically, it drove one of my uncles to suicide.
It is one tough mofo of an adversary, I promise you.
Initially, my therapist told me that depression usually manifests itself in men as anger, not sadness, as with women. That made sense to me; the first time I visited her, and she asked me why I was there, I told her I was just mad all the time. Everything and everybody just pissed me off; in fact, I was hoarse when I got to her office, because I arrived really late, due to one road closure after another, and I was yelling the entire trip (windows closed) at anyone and everyone who was in any way responsible for those closures.
That was pretty much how I rolled, though; anything could set me off. I didn’t like anyone, either. It was like this t-shirt I saw recently that read, “I used to be a people person, then people ruined it for me.”
I knew that needed to change, especially because it was causing tension at home. I was giving my dear wife a lot of grief she didn’t deserve, and I needed to stop. I wanted to stop. I knew I had to do something. And I needed some help to do it.
Now, folks, here’s a great thing about depression:
It has no use for logic or reason.
I mean, after all, let’s think about this a minute; I’ve had a pretty good life. I was raised in a loving home. I got a college education. I’ve got a loving, devoted wife, a nice home, decent health, decent job, money in the bank, never been in jail, never gone hungry, never gone homeless…exactly what the hell have I got to be depressed about?
See? Logic and reason. Depression gives that the finger. It says, “I don’t need no steenking reason!”
Which, of course, makes me even more depressed, because I feel like I have no right to it. People whose lives are in the gutter, people with some terminal illness, yeah, depression in them would make some sense, at least. But me? Gimme a break, pal.
Yet, I still get depressed: Over my health, over growing old and looking it, over my numerous faults, over global warming, over all the unspeakably inhumane ways we treat each other, over the specter of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becoming President, over no particular thing at all. I descend into the pit. The boulder becomes heavier.
And, yeah, I know I’m not the only one thinking these things, but see, that’s another wonderful thing about depression:
It talks smack to you.
“Everone else has it together, what’s your problem, dude? Do you see anyone around you screwing this up as bad as you?”
And, many times, I don’t.
OK, Men, here’s where I need you to pay a little more attention.
Years ago, I was at a meeting (not that meeting), and the conversation got around to being depressed. As I was the only guy in the room, one of the women turned to me and said, “I don’t know, do guys get depressed?”
I was shocked. It never occurred to me that would even be a question. I thought, wow, we must really be good at hiding this.
Now, mind you, not all men get depressed, any more than all women. But, since women feel more comfortable sharing things, you just don’t hear about the men. For one thing, depression is viewed as a weakness, which MEN MUST NEVER SHOW, being the mighty defenders of Truth, Justice and The American Way that we are. Depression means we’re weenies, and getting help for depression is even more weenieish, am I right, guys?
Well, let’s consider, for a minute, the late Mike Wallace, the outstanding reporter for 60 Minutes. He was regarded as the toughest journalist out there, never one to shy away from the hard question, never one to avoid confrontation, never one to back down from getting at the truth. Tough guy. A MAN.
Guess what, fellas: he got depressed, seriously depressed, to the point of contemplating suicide. Admitted as much on, of all things, 60 Minutes.
Guess what else: He got help for it, then did an ad on TV saying it’s okay to ask for help.
Here’s three things you really need to know about depression right now:
- It’s NOT a weakness.
- You CAN’T just “snap out of it.”
- You CAN get help for it.
Listen up, guys. You want to do something manly? Something that takes big, brass balls? Get help for your depression; it’s available. I mean, you wouldn’t believe how many resources there are online for you.
Don’t know for sure if you’re depressed? Go to Webmd.com, Healthline.com, or whatever medical website you prefer, and read up on the signs and symptoms, and find out where you can get help. (Ladies, you look, too, for your man or for yourself.) I also highly recommend http://www.wingofmadness.com
Now, understand something, mis amigos. I got help, but I am by no means cured. Depression is treatable, not curable. I still have my occasions of irritability and anger. I still have my days of total pessimism and bleak world view. I still visit the pit. I still feel the weight. Those things aren’t going away. But they’re more manageable, now.
Now, let’s get REALLY serious.
Thinking about suicide? Brother, I’ve been there. Many times, I’ve ruminated on whether the world would be much better off without me in it. Usually, it’s just a fleeting thought, but I’ve had at least one Hamlet Moment in my time, believe me. I’ve had that hopeless, useless, worthless feeling more times than I wish to remember.
You know what brings me back, every time? My wife. And my two cats. Silly? Maybe, but…
As bad, as terrified as I may feel sometimes about going on living, I feel infinitely worse about leaving them. I picture my darling wife trudging, as through water, through a house where everything she looks at reminds her, in some way, of me. I think of those precious cats futilely scouring the house, looking for Dad, not comprehending that he’s gone, forever…
and I just can’t. I just can ‘t.
Do I like admitting this to the world? ABSOLUTELY NOT. It’s a part of me I’d just as soon keep private, thank you. But I think of Mr. Wallace, and then I think of the last moments of comedian Robin Williams, putting that belt around his neck, completely bereft of hope, his pain and anguish going all the way to the marrow, and…
This could go one of two ways, in other words. The first way, while more painful, is still the better option.
Really, it is.
My wife and pets are my lifeline. If you can’t come up with any lifelines in your life, please, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, open 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255, and let THAT be your lifeline.
And to one person in particular, (you know who you are) remember all the people who love you, including me. We are all here for you.
You’re not alone, I swear. There’s a way out of that f*****g prison cell.