Aug 8, 2016
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
“David, there’s no switch to flick. There’s no cure for what you have. You’re depressed and you have to invest time talking about it. It’s the only way to live with it without it consuming you.” After seventeen long years of confusion, lying, pain, guilt, self-loathing, lost friendships and relationships, financial ruin, suicidal thoughts and one serious attempt. After ten years, and five doctors trying everything from pills to visualization to journaling, a light bulb moment finally occurred in the office of doctor number six. Ok, so there’s some paraphrasing and use of flowery language for dramatic effect in there, but three years after that session, the message still sticks.
My natural instinct is to lie and hide the negative stuff.
The bitch of depression is that it’s often so deep seated that you don’t consciously recognize the triggers. And those triggers affect everyone differently. When most people get stressed or upset, they tend to talk to a friend or family member. It makes them feel better. It’s a natural instinct. However, my natural instinct is to lie and hide the negative stuff, at ALL costs.
Growing up, I had it easy. I have great parents. I was a good athlete. I excelled in school. A charmed life. Although looking closely, you could find early signs of this natural instinct. When I was 8 or 9, I cried for a full day over getting 70% on a math test. When I was 11, I hid the fact that I’d “only” made the “B” team in baseball from my parents for two weeks. I would exaggerate in stories to make myself sound better so that people would never worry about me. I’d say anything to avoid having to talk about the pain I was feeling. But the pain came on so gradually, it all felt normal. I assumed everyone felt the same way and simply dealt with it better.
Unfortunately, as you get older, the stakes get higher and things get more stressful. The little white lies of high school became gigantic ones affecting my career, relationships and health. I lied about graduating from university on time until the list of graduates was posted and my girlfriend came to me in shock. Two years later, I lied about even attending college and having a job until a friend discovered I was stealing money from him and called me out. A couple of years after that, my continuous lying led me to completely run out of money, disappear from friends and family for 2 days, and attempt suicide. Another girlfriend tried to see me through that mess and was never the same.
She was a reminder that there were reasons to live and get better.
The cycle kept repeating over and over. Vey nice, well-intentioned doctors listened to all my stories; asked questions and told me I was fine. “You’re smart, you’re healthy, just tell the truth and you’ll be fine.” All this did was cement my self-loathing. Since there was no actual explanation for what’s in my head then I must just be a terrible person. So, it would be lather, rinse and repeat until I would think of the least painful way to end it all. And then the cycle ended, mostly because I had a daughter. She was a reminder that there were reasons to live and get better.
Three years after that therapy session, talking about what’s bothering me remains tantamount to invasive dental surgery, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The secret isâ€¦ well there isn’t one. You make a decision to listen to those who are there to help you and share with those people who care about you. A plan doesn’t have to be complicated to be the right one. When you put yourself out there and share your struggles, you’re bound to be surprised by the voices that echo those struggles back. Some “friends” may throw up their hands and slowly back away, but most will throw their arms around you and stay right there with you.
Two things nag at me on my “bad days”. One is the past and the other is the futureâ€¦yeah, that’s all. The past is a killer because of the guilt. The only label that’s tougher to shake than the one that others put on you is the one you lay on yourself. “A drag”â€¦ that’s my self-imposed nickname. “I’ve been a drag on everyone I’ve ever touched.” Never mind the good stuff, no one remembers that right? Well they do, it’s just sometimes a chore to talk yourself into the truth when the guilt is hounding you in the other ear. And then it’s the past that becomes a drag on your future. No one wants to go through life lonely, but cycling through the same behaviour repeatedly sure makes it a probability. Time invested talking straight with people is a hell of a lot easier than time invested inventing ways to avoid them. And there may be no cure for what I have, but looking into the eyes of someone I’ve come to care about after telling them my life story and having the response be, “I could care less, I love you”â€¦ comes awfully close.