Depression is not my Boss – Day 1
This morning I videotaped my thoughts about beginning this new journey. I look pretty rough in the video, but it is me, this morning. And as I write this, I am already having to deal with depression. As I face my life and what’s next, my first thoughts were “I am all alone and I must figure this out by myself.” This makes me feel afraid.
Then I opened an email and saw what my daughter had written to let someone know I would not be coming and speaking at their event because I was in the hospital. Her kind, clear words were full of love. The response from the leaders of the conference was incredibly supportive. They really care about me.
My depression is not letting me see that I have support. It is making me feel alone, isolated, and telling me that I would be better off if I did not try to fight its grip. In the safety of the hospital, it was easy to say “Depression, You’re not the BOSS OF Me.” Back at home, the reality of that decision is hitting me.
This is not going to be easy. Done right, this is going to be forever. I have depression, but it doesn’t have me. I will say this many times each day, each week, each month. If I don’t stay vigilant, I will stop saying this when things are going better. And this will, like every time before, lead to crisis.
I am inviting you along on my journey in the hopes that you can benefit from my experience and get help if you recognize yourself in my writing. This diagnosis of Severe depression was made yesterday. But in my lifetime, I have had four episodes. Sadly, for me and those around me, I concealed my depression very well. I would figure a way out and get myself back into life without acknowledging what had happened. In fact, my mission was to remain strong, the poster boy of being in control, never letting anyone see behind the curtain.
As a manager, I have developed an ability to always project a positive, self-assured outlook. This ability has been a cornerstone of my professional success but has left me lacking in my ability to express emotion. Part of my plan for recovery is to learn how to identify and express my emotions. This makes me feel afraid, too.
So, this time, I was not able to figure a way out. In my mind, this left me with three choices: commit suicide and end it, keep doing what I have been doing and hope for a different outcome, or get professional help.
Suicide was out. I am too competitive and want to see my hundredth birthday. While suicidal thoughts have visited me for years, I have never acted on them. Like mindfulness meditation, I acknowledge the thought, and then let it go.
Option two was to keep doing what I was doing and hope for a different result. Now that is crazy. Yet, that had been my plan for this episode of depression. I endured weeks, probably months, of panic attacks, loss of appetite and not finding joy in anything as I tried to make this work.
Finally, I decided to seek professional help. People are telling me I was brave to do this, and they are proud of me. The truth is, seeking help was just a little less terrifying than continuing option two of waiting and hoping it will get better. Going into the emergency room and saying, “I have a mental health problem and I need help” was really, really hard.
Growing up, some of my relatives had “nerves.” This was a polite way of saying depression. It runs in my family. And the way we handled it was to downplay it and not really talk about it. Being a really good student, I learned that lesson early.
As an adult, I applied what I learned about nerves to my own situation. Sweep it under the rug, project a positive face towards others, and never let them see you have depression. Never even acknowledge or name it. Saying I have depression is new for me, even though I have had depression most of my life. Until this week, I have never said this out loud, I have depression, but it doesn’t have me.
So, this is day 1 of the rest of my life. My mantra is “Depression is not my Boss.” I choose life over suicide. I choose help over wait and hope it gets better. I choose to do the things that are necessary, no matter how difficult, over letting depression win.