Jun 8, 2017
The voice of depression is silence
This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.
“Don’t submit it!”
“Nobody will care!”
“C’mon – you’re just one guy among millions of people suffering!”
These aren’t quotes from others. These are well and truly quotes from what Michael Landsberg calls “The Voice Of Depression.” It’s a voice that knows and understands every one of my fears and anxieties and weaknesses and tries to prey on them. It’s not about “oh he hears voices,” necessarily. It’s just a tiny little instinctual feeling that tells me I don’t deserve to be happy and comfortable. Some days, it even goes so far as to tell me that people would be better off without me.
I’m 40 years old, a Prairie guy born and raised. We’re tough out here. We’re a beer drinking, hockey watching, Roughrider loving folk. We’re also about 40 years behind how we deal with folks like me who have both physical disabilities (I was born with Spina Biffida) and this black cloud called mental illness.
I had family who were in complete denial of anything being “wrong” with me.
Looking back, depression and anxiety hit me at a young age. I had family who were in complete denial of anything being “wrong” with me. I can’t even count the number of times I was tacitly or openly accused of “faking” being sick Over the years, I’ve been left by (and have left) friends and relationships because nobody understood and I couldn’t really explain what often went on inside my head.
The constant low self esteem. The self sabotage. The fear of success. The fear of putting myself out there for fear of being “found out.” People would often ask me what I was so afraid of. Why I insisted on holding myself back when others were finding their own paths and successes and taking great risks and leaps and JUST BEING HAPPY. A fear of “being found out,” as it turns out, had everything to do with being afraid that people would end up seeing what I saw in myself. That the “voice of depression” would be recognized by others in the same way that I heard it in my own head.
“He’s a fluke”
“He’s a poser, a fake”
“He didn’t deserve that”
I suffered my first anxiety attack at age 19, in January of 1996. I ended up in the ER for a few hours, then was sent home. No script. No counselling, nothing. Just “you probably hyperventilated. Go home, try and relax.”
The anxiety attacks continued through emotional abuse and other “life” occurrences (deaths, particularly), but it took a LONG time for me to finally go to the doctor and say “hey..I need help here.”
My anxiety was so bad I could barely speak clearly.
It was June 2008. A few days before my cousin’s wedding. My anxiety was so bad I could barely speak clearly (which still happens to this day, on rare occasions). I went to the doc and he prescribed a common antidepressant, which made the situation worse. I lasted for about ten days on it, if that.
I then stopped it cold turkey – figuring I’d throw myself into work and friends and I’d be okay. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever started and stopped antidepressants will tell you, it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made (and one which I would repeat several times. I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to figuring out what I can and can’t do sometimes. Heh…)
Fast forward to late October 2008. Sitting in the same doctor’s office, he finally gave me a formal, proper, depression and anxiety test, which he didn’t do in June. GAD. Clinical Depression. FINALLY a diagnosis.
I was on a particular med (the name of which sort of sounds like something you’d find on a drum kit) for several years. As often happens, it quit working, so I was off and on several different meds until October of 2014 when, again, I decided “Enough. Cold Turkey. I can fucking do this. I’m a man, I don’t need the meds!” Nope. Wrong again, dumbass. I stayed off all meds (save for an experiment which failed after I had a reaction on my second dose) until October of 2015 when I had the most profound breakdown I’ve ever had.
I didn’t want to know they existed.
I saw my doc again (a different family doc this time) and he put me back on something I had been on when I was trying different meds over the years. Except he put me on the generic – which I reacted to BADLY (stay away from generic ADs if you can, kids). Again I said “Fuck it. I’m done with meds,” and had my mom throw all my antidepressants in the garbage. I didn’t want to know they existed.
Where am I now, sitting here as of early February 2017? Back on the same medication that sounds like something you’d find on a drum kit since May of last year. On the advice of a psychiatrist (who I began seeing in December) he had me up the dose to a level that I didn’t think I needed. As it turns out, I did. I was also enrolled in a four week intensive mental health rehab course in December and January, and I’m now back working full weeks for the first time in years.
To be offered the opportunity to write like this is an amazing blessing for me. When I woke up this morning, I was probably about a 2 on the SickTer Scale. Now? Easily a 7. The “voice of depression” is silent. It’s a sunny, crisp, prairie morning.
Advocacy? People tell me I share too much, but it is something I’ve always believed in. Advocacy equals hope. If my stories going forward can allow someone to have some hope that you can and WILL be okay. Pat yourself on the back for getting out of bed when you’re a 2 or a 3. I’ve been there. Pat yourself on the back for dragging your ass into the shower when the last thing you want to feel is water on you. I’ve been there. Pat yourself on the back for getting out of the house for a minute. I’ve been there. For getting some exercise. I’ve been there too.
You’re sick, not weak. You deserve to feel well again.
And – for those of you reading this who haven’t yet taken the step to say “Hey. I need help”. Pat yourself on the back for doing that too. if in some tiny way any of the stories on this site have pushed you in that direction.
Remember: You’re sick, not weak. You deserve to feel well again.