In Their Words…Justin
We have come to learn just how much men appreciate reading/listening to the stories of other men who have dealt with depression, anxiety, and the challenges that go along with these conditions. I have reached out to the 140 men who attend our support groups and asked them if they would be willing to share a story that was important to them that relates to the struggles they have had. I have made no edits to the content of what they wrote and the words that follow are those of the man who wrote them. Today I am sharing a story by Justin.
I am going to tell you about my life experience of depression, so this story will be pretty general. I just did the math: I have lived fifty years, have had 12 episodes of depression over a thirty-year span (age 15 to 45) and each episode lasts an average of seven months, the shortest four and the longest twelve.
Like schizophrenia might make a person see or hear things that aren’t real, depression makes me think things that aren’t real – specifically that I am a total fucking loser, and that there is no hope of ever not being a total fucking loser so there is no point in trying. In a word, despair. When depressed, there is a constant feeling in my throat, the kind I get when I think I am going to cry or throw up, but neither happens. By far the most appealing way to spend a day is in bed.
Simple tasks like showering or preparing a meal are a big effort, so being a friend, parent, spouse and/or employee are too much, and not done well, if at all. Thoughts of suicide creep in: jump off a fire escape, steal a gun, climb a utility pole and see if I can electrocute myself, jump in front of a moving truck, hang myself. I got close on the last one: the orange electrical cord would go over this garage beam, the garage door would be disconnected so it wouldn’t open when the wife and kids got home from their trip and they wouldn’t see my dead body hanging . . . . . Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to go to the ER instead of following through and spent three days in the locked psych ward.
The thing that contribute to my depression are:
• Perfectionism (I must follow up on every email and always must have a clean inbox, etc.)
• Stress, especially debt. Buying a house in 2006 for $215K and having to sell it in 2013 for $171K was nearly more than I could handle.
• Resentment and dwelling on feeling unappreciated.
• Alcohol. I was a binge drinker from 16 to 25. It helped me relax and escape, but ultimately led to more sadness and anxiety than the brief respite it provided. I have been involved in Alcoholics Anonymous for over twenty years. It has helped me deal with the resentment and “poor me” thought and feelings, but it should be noted that while it helps with depression, it does not cure it, nor is it meant to.
Things that have helped my depression:
• Anti-depressants and mood stabilizers
• Exercise, once I am able to overcome the inertia of depression.
• Good thinking: consciously trying to think of things to be grateful for instead of ruminating on mistakes, frustrations and resentments.
• Fellowship. This is what the Face It Foundation provides: a place to be with other men who know what it’s like. Vincent van Gogh, who ultimately lost his battle with depression at 37, wrote the following in a letter to his brother Theo, and I think it captures what Face It is all about.
“And it’s often impossible for men to do anything, prisoners in I don’t know what kind of horrible, horrible, very horrible cage. There is also, I know, release, belated release . . . You may not always be able to say what it is that confines, that immures, that seems to bury, and yet you feel I know not what bars, I know not what gates — walls. Is all that imaginary, a fantasy? I don’t think so; and then you ask yourself, Dear God, is this for long, is this forever, is this for eternity? You know, what makes the prison disappear is every deep, serious attachment. To be friends, to be brothers, to love; that opens the prison through sovereign power, through a most powerful spell. But he who doesn’t have that remains in death. But where sympathy springs up again, life springs up again.”
Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or thoughts and I will pass them along to the author of this post.