In Their Words…Mike
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 Mike, who attends a Face It Men’s group.
A year after a bad divorce due partly to my depression I met Carole the women I have been with for 32 years. That was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Looking back now I think I struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. I remember as a young boy having lots of anxiety about several things and never feeling comfortable in my skin. The depression seemed to come later but I covered it up for a lot of years with alcohol. I found alcohol at a young age, about fourteen I think. I thought it was great stuff, it helped me to feel at ease around people, talk to girls and drown my feelings in it but after a while it no longer worked. I was sober about one and a half years when I met Carole.
I was filled with anxiety about being with a woman as I had never had sex with anyone but my ex without being drunk. Fortunately, Carole was easy to be with and we enjoyed each other from the start. I am still surprised I was able to meet someone so sane and normal as I was quite depressed at the time. Unfortunately, I think mostly due to the depression I broke up with Carole after being together a year. We both regretted it and managed to reunite about a year later and have never looked back.
I don’t think my depression has ever left me completely and I have been diagnosed with Dysthymia a chronic low-grade depression which can have episodes of major depression. I fell into an episode of the worst combination of depression and anxiety I have ever experienced. I say fell into it because it seemed to come on so sudden and for no reason that I could think of at the time. I started to have these catastrophic thoughts of terrible things going wrong with electrical jobs I had done in the past. I was an electrician and the thoughts were about my work starting fires, houses burning down, and people being injured and killed, and these thoughts just kept haunting me every day for about three months. It was hell. I could not function at all so Carole and an employee of mine took over the business.
Carole also took care of pretty much everything else. She made appointments for me to see a therapist, picked up my meds at the pharmacy and made sure I took them at the right dosage and time. She also took care of the house and anything else that needed to be done. I’m not sure I would have made it through this time if not for her. Even as I write this I am amazed how much she took on and how she was always there for me, never making me feel ashamed or worthless. This really helped as I was feeling like the lowest human being possible.
I did finally get better and went back to work. Carole has been instrumental in helping me cope with this illness. I still can have those thoughts now and then and she helps me to realize they are only thoughts and there is no evidence in the forty-five years I have done electrical work that anything bad has happened. When I slip into anxiety or negative thinking she helps me to see things in a more positive way, she reminds me of the good things I do as I can be hard on myself.
I think it is very important to have an open dialogue with your spouse or significant other and to let them know when you are struggling. As a man I know that is a difficult thing to do. I have always wanted to be John Wayne, able to handle any situation, take care of any problems and have no fear at all. Well I am no John Wayne although I am quite self-sufficient and capable in many ways but when this illness takes over I need someone on my side to help me through it. And I think accepting that I need help has made me a more empathetic person and more accepting of other people’s problems. If you are in a relationship this illness will affect both of you, so you really do need to work together to overcome it. Talk to your wire or significant other, be honest and accept help when you need it.
Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or thoughts and I will pass them along to Mike.