We are nearing the close of Mental Illness Awareness month. I suppose it is ironic that it is also the month of my birthday. For sure, there has been enough reminders in the media to cause me to consider long and hard about what it is to be a person who suffers from major depression, in fact, most of my life.
I am learning to be a student of my condition, analyzing carefully my own actions and reactions, and carefully considering the root cause in my times of sorrow and sadness. I can say for sure, that the recognition and acknowledgement of my depressive condition has given me great insight into behaviours that I did not realize existed.
The greatest revelation for me is just how hidden depression can be. I don’t look like the kind of person that would suffer from chronic depression when you first meet me. I have the ability to communicate in a confident manner. I’m well educated with a Master’s degree. I have a very successful career and have been promoted to great responsibility because of the recognition of my work. I have an incredibly wide range of talents that often surprise people who first get to know me. It just doesn’t register to anyone that I might be suffering inside. And in fact, the outward successes have kept me from seeing the depression in my own self. For this reason, I understand how someone like Rick Rypien could be so plagued by this condition despite the success he experiences in his life.
Those who know me a lot deeper can see that there’s something “off” in the way I behave, and particularly how I relate to other people.
1. Now at the age of 43 (44 tomorrow), I have never had a romantic relationship. In fact, none of the three kids in my family are married, and only one of us had a girlfriend for a short time a long, long time ago. The thought of being romantic is a wonderful idea in my head. But when the opportunity comes, I freeze and panic. And even if I am interested, I pretend that I am not out of some paralyzing fear.
2. I allow friends around me to enjoy ridiculing me, but in fact, it is often because I have many manners that are socially awkward and tend to behave oddly in public. The majority of the time, I laugh, and pretend it’s funny despite how much it hurts inside. In fact, there are many times that I laugh along with my friends, but I’m not even always sure what’s so funny.
3. I am highly obssessive in how I approach tasks. Depression causes the inability to concentrate. I thought that my troubles with concentration these days was enhanced because of this depressive state, but I realize now that it’s always been there. I’m just recognizing it now. For me, the only way to follow through on anything is to get fully obsessed about a task. And my approach is to remove all fun, and focus on the work. Served me well these many years — but at a cost. Regular burn-out is the most common symptom.
4. I have suffered with insomnia for over two decades at least now… perhaps three. Perhaps maybe more. I hate night time because I know I will fight for hours and hours to try to fall asleep. In the quiet, my mind races with emotion and anxiety, and refuses to rest. I was told once by a friend that most people who cannot sleep usually have a lot of life problems. Yes, that’s definitely me.
5. I think of death regularly. I mean, a lot, a lot. I don’t like gore or violence. I simply imagine how easy it would be if I could just die and not have to deal with the sadness and anxiety that seems to plague me on a regular basis. I don’t feel suicidal, but I always consider it as a possible solution. My common sense tends to force me out of any desire to try anything. But the thought often comes, and usually without warning.
This month, I finally was able to articulate the source of the depression in my childhood. And while I don’t feel this is the forum to spill out the details of my journey that lead to this present state, I can say that knowing it also presents me with a very precious gift — a choice to break free. Now that I know what is holding me down, I know from what I need to escape.
I ordered a book from Amazon and just received it this week – Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It has been recommended to me on several occasions, but didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t know how that had any relation to my stunted emotional development. Recognizing it now, I have begun to read it. I made it through the first three pages before my mind constantly started drifting. I suppose that means I’ll be going really slow. So far, it looks very promising.
The focus (and my homework) these days is to intentionally feel happy. I’m trying to not force anything, and being kind to myself — whatever that means.
Thank you to those who attempt to contact me, and lift prayers for me behind the scene. I am working my way out of this hole.