Tomorrow is the big day. I finally put my mental health first and begin therapy. And I am really excited about finally healing, but I’m also petrified.
I’m anxious to start because I feel like I will finally have someone to talk to that understands the things I’m saying. The problem with my depression is that most people I have been open with about it just don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense to them how someone who appears to have it all together can struggle so much internally.
And I know I’m not alone. I recently found out that my own niece is having struggles with depression as well. To the point where she had to be hospitalized for a little while. Truth be told, I should have been hospitalized in the past as well, because if it weren’t for the few strands I was clinging on to I wouldn’t be here right now.
So I want to share with everyone, especially my loved ones, what depression, and trauma, is to ME. This is not a one-size fits all. This fits my personal feelings. But I want people to understand what goes on.
This isn’t going to make sense to most of you, but depression is such a bittersweet experience. I absolutely hate when my depression overpowers my thoughts and consumes me. And that’s the first thing I want you to know. Depression is not just a mental thing. It does not burrow its way into your mind and stay put. No, it worms its way through every part of your being, extending even past yourself and inflicting harm and sorrow onto the things and people around you. I want you to think of a pitch black room with no light. This is depression when it is all consuming. Now, you can try and bring light into the room but the second the light flickers on it is immediately extinguished by the darkness around it. You physically feel depression. I have seen videos and pictures posted by others of people who committed suicide just a few days after. And in every single one you can physically see the pain, sadness, and emotional burden that is upon them.
To those who think suicide is a selfish act, you are sorely mistaken. Suicide is not something that people just stumble upon. It is an act that has been thought about several times. It has been the topic of pros and cons lists. It has been weighed against the damage that will be caused to others. And it sadly wins in the end for several people.
Those who commit suicide from depression know the pain that others will go through. But the pain that they feel themselves is just too much for them to bear.
And do you know why they don’t reach out to others? Because sometimes they want to limit the damage that is caused to others.
If I were to ever take my own life, which I have thought about at several points in my life, I wouldn’t want to bring someone else into my mess and have them feel responsible for what I decided to do. It doesn’t always have something to do with other people. Sometimes the pain is just… too… much.
I grew up not being comfortable expressing my emotions. Because anytime I would I would be told that I’m so whiney. Or that I need to grow up. Or that boys don’t cry. I would be told that I was supposed to act a certain way. I would be bullied for being a little different.
I didn’t feel comfortable being me.
So I grew up thinking things had to be a certain way. But I always knew that wasn’t right. So I would gravitate to things and people that allowed me to be a little bit more of what I was comfortable being.
I couldn’t have male relationships in my life. Because they were established on the foundation of competition and masculinity. And it wasn’t a place I felt comfortable expressing my emotions. I couldn’t cry to these people. I couldn’t tell them my thoughts and struggles. So I had friendships with mostly females. It was people who let me be me. I was someone they would come to for help and advice and they would open their hearts to me, and occasionally I was able to do the same to them.
But because of this I was also constantly told that I was gay. How infuriating that because you seek comfort in those you can relate to there has to be some ulterior motive behind it? I still struggle with this, but at this point it’s just something I have learned to have to accept because I’m an anomaly and people don’t view the world in the same way that I do.
The second thing that I want you to know about depression is that there is NOT always a trigger that brings it on. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. And that’s what’s really hard about talking to others about it. Because everyone instinctively wants to know what happened, so they can either try and fix it or try to avoid it. So when someone asks you what’s wrong, and you don’t have a reason for telling them that in that moment your life just totally sucks, you tell them that you are fine. Or things are good. Because it’s easier to lie to others and protect their feelings than to create an awkwardness between you and them because they just don’t understand you.
It’s difficult. I’m trying to get better about expressing my bad days but it’s still hard for others to get it. When I’m having a rough day I will let my wife know and sometimes it will frustrate her because the day has been good, so why would I try and ruin it with depression? And it’s frustrating to me because it’s hard to open myself up and not be able to give those I love a reason why I’m going through something.
I’m fortunate that sometimes people can sense that I’m having an off day and they will just be more present and not make a big deal about it. My wife will play with my hair, or rub my arm to let me know she’s thinking of me. My friends will hug me a little tighter or a little longer. My kids will remind me that they love me.
The third thing I want you to know about depression is that it is not something that just goes away. It’s kind of like an addiction. You aren’t just suddenly depression free. You are in remission. You are a recovering depressive. It’s why when you are prescribed anti-depressants they are typically a lifelong thing. I will always have depression. My therapy will help me work through things that I’ve never been able to deal with. It will give me tools to recognize when depression is creeping in and give me a better chance to fight back. Instead of drowning maybe I will only get in waist deep. My anti-depressants and my therapy are going to help me deal with my traumas.
Earlier I mentioned how depression is bittersweet. I want to touch on that. To me, I find so much comfort in depression. It holds me tighter than anything else in my life ever has. It’s been a constant and a place of solace when the rest of the world gets too overwhelming. It’s something that I know will never leave me. It doesn’t go and do it’s own thing and forgets about me. It waits. It’s always there. Quiet, but with a hand on my shoulder. I’m able to be reminded of my priorities in my seasons of depression. My emotions flood out of me. I finally have conversations with myself on the things I’ve been hiding away. It’s not a safe place by any means, but it’s comforting knowing it will never leave me.
I want to take a minute to briefly discuss trauma. I won’t go into it too much because honestly almost everyone that reads this that I am close with have been responsible for some of the traumas in my life. And working through my traumas are for me and my therapist. I don’t need anything from any of you anymore. I don’t need an apology. I don’t need acknowledgement.
But I want to get something off of my chest about trauma. Because it’s a serious thing.
Trauma is an emotional response to an event that the first feel is significant to THEM. “A traumatized person can feel a range of emotions both immediately after the event and in the long term. They may feel overwhelmed, helpless, shocked, or have difficulty processing their experiences. Trauma can also cause physical symptoms.” There are three types of trauma: acute (This results from a single stressful or dangerous event.), chronic (This results from repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. Examples include cases of child abuse, bullying, or domestic violence.), and complex (This results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.). I have all of these.
What trauma is NOT is something that SOMEONE ELSE gets to dictate is or is not actually trauma. If it is traumatic to me then it is not okay for you to tell me that it is not that bad, or isn’t what I think it is.
I went through a list of childhood traumas that I remember to my best friends a few weeks ago. And I watched as tears formed in their eyes and could see the heartbreak on their faces. It was in that moment that I realized that things I thought were “normal” weren’t. The same thing happened to my wife. She realized that things that happened to her weren’t okay.
Yes, this includes sexual assaults. Yes, this includes physical and emotional abuse and bullying. Yes, this includes experiences of death and exposure to things kids shouldn’t have to be subjected to.
Yes, to some of you reading this those things are going to be extremely hard for you to read. Because honestly you’re probably not aware of some of them. Why? Because I couldn’t talk about them.
I was/am a victim of circumstance. I’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was put in situations that to others would be seen as safe, but to someone who was “overly emotional” it was traumatic.
I will work through my past with my therapist. It is not something that I want to work through with any of you. The past is the past and my relationships now are not going to be built on those issues. I don’t want to talk about them with you. Please respect my choices and do not push.
The thing about depression and trauma are that they are unique to the person experiencing them. And they come when you least expect them. The scary thing is also knowing that there are seasons of depression and traumas that will occur in my life in the future that may be worse than anything I’ve experienced so far. That’s what happens when you love so fiercely. You become an easy target to pain and sadness. I know that there is a chance that the people closest to me in my life now could end up being a footnote in my overall story. That they could end up hurting me more than anyone else ever has.
I’m hopeful that therapy will help me resolve the traumas in my life that I wrote off as “normal” so that when these new experiences occur I can address them immediately.
I will be better for me so that not only can I keep being a loving person to others, but I can also be a loving person to myself.
Just some food for thought.