Seeing others openly write about their personal struggles, I am feeling like a weakling.
Their name is connected to their struggle with whatever is happening to them. I have a good friend who is sharing her thoughts about stress and anxiety. And there are all the celebrities who have come out and shared their stories about living with depression. Plus, the stories about celebrities who have taken their lives and had suffered from depression.
While I have been brutally honest with what I am saying, I am writing under the alias of Depression Is Not My Boss.
This is where feeling like a weakling comes in. Unhelpful thinking places all kinds of fearful thoughts in my head. If I tell people, something bad will happen. I will feel ashamed. I already feel guilty that I have depression. There are days where I feel having depression is my fault and if I just did …, it would go away.
But my depression has been with me for over 40 years.
And my concealing of it has been going on for those 40 years. There is a lot of history between depression and me, but depression prefers to keep it a secret. And I dutifully complied for over 40 years. As I keep saying, if I had figured out a way to hide my latest trip to the abyss, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
Depression is painful and costly in so many ways.
But doing the same thing and always thinking “this time it will be different,” was the way I handled each episode of depression. Ending my life was much too frightening. And until last April, seeking professional medical attention for my depression was unthinkable.
Depression keeps telling me that it is all I need.
The more secretive I can be about my relationship with depression, the better it feels. My relationship with depression has waxed and waned over the years. Making it harder to admit I have depression was the fact that I was not calling it depression. I was hiding how I was feeling (or not feeling) from everyone, especially myself.
So concealed depression is a habit and breaking that habit is troublesome.
Having confidence in myself to share my relationship with depression openly is one thing. Putting my name to the information has been a label I haven’t been able to share. Unhelpful thinking has me catastrophizing any sharing of personal information with the world. Depression and I compromised when I began publicly journaling, writing blog posts, about my depression.
Begrudgingly, depression has let me share, but only if I didn’t use my real name.
I have written openly and honestly about suicidal ideation, circling the drain, being up against the wall, and my struggle to find a medication that helps me lead a balanced life. Working out my struggles on paper has been very therapeutic. Writing down my thoughts helps me see how to move forward.
But putting my name to the work feels different.
I know many people who have broken arms or legs. Wearing the cast was almost a status symbol. “Look at me, I broke my leg, but I will be OK.” Twice I have broken bones in my body. Both times, it was one of my ribs. There was no cast, no proof of the injury.
As a teenager, I was riding in the back of a pickup truck when a sudden stop threw me against the corner of a metal toolbox. It was two days before I went to the doctor and discovered I had broken a rib.
And about 10 years ago, I had put up my extension ladder against the house on the back deck of our two-story home, so I could re-point the chimney (use cement to patch around the chimney flue). I raised the extension ladder and then thought about the trowel I would need. This distraction kept me from locking the ladder in place.
Climbing the ladder, the second time, I got six feet up when the ladder contracted.
My hands were on the side of the ladder as I bumped back to the deck, saving me from breaking all my fingers. I bounced once when I hit the deck, then I fell against the metal chiminea. From there, I fell prone to the deck. I could feel my chest throbbing and taking any kind of a deep breath was excruciating.
But I had a plan to repair the chimney and I wasn’t going to let the pain stop me.
I put the ladder back up, secured it, and climbed to the roof, and made the repair. As I came down, I saw that I had put a major dent in our metal chiminea. After putting all my tools away, including the 28’ extension ladder, I was still having trouble breathing.
So, I took myself to the emergency room, where the x-rays revealed a broken rib.
My depression is much like a broken rib. I can feel it, I know it is there, but unless I tell someone, they really cannot tell my rib is broken. Now I do know my concealing depression has never been 100%. My major meltdowns have been documented in the minds of others, and their thoughts are clearer than what depression had me believe.
While I know this is not true, I tell myself no one can see what I am going through.
My relationship with depression has me believing that we are the only two who understand me. Depression wants me to stay with it forever as my only confidant. Yet even today, depression is plotting its next idea for me, hoping it will have me circling the drain. So why am I afraid to put my name to my depression? I have shared my depression with family and some close friends and business associates.
However, being the poster child for depression has me frightened.
One of my Peer Advocates suggested that perhaps talking about my depression with the world would help others, while it helped me too. The first time I heard that idea, I thought “no way.” Speaking about my relationship with depression in a group meeting was one thing. Going global with my depression is something altogether different.
Now, putting my name to my depression is feeling like the next step in my recovery.
I need to explore this more. Having learned so many great tools from SMART recovery and WRAP, I can find one, or several that can help me look at this without the bias depression insists I use. Depression is feeling lonely these days.
If “coming out” is the next step in my leading a balanced life with depression, I must be strong enough to do it.
My concealed depression is written under the alias “Depression is not my boss.” I have certifications in SMART Recovery and am a Global Career Development Facilitator.
Diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder last year, I am sharing what I learn. If you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please share.
I very much appreciate your comments.