“I coulda been a contender.”
That’s how I am feeling today. Concealing my depression from myself has cost me in ways I am just beginning to understand. The choices I have made, the paths taken and not taken, can be linked back to depression. Not that I am using that as an excuse.
I accept and live with the decisions I have made.
And I am not jealous of people who are doing things with their lives that I could be doing. “I could be him.” That is not helpful. But it can be inspiring. Knowing that someone is doing it is motivation for me that I could be doing it, too.
In his national bestseller, I don’t want to talk about it, therapist Terrence Real talks about the stages of dealing with what he calls covert depression. His experience is that men must first acknowledge that they have depression. Then it must become overt; it must be brought out where everyone affected can see it. Only then, can true healing begin.
The stories he relates to the process of healing have me scared.
In his examples, the men stop their destructive behaviors that depression encourages. As they face the root causes of their depression, they sink lower and lower. Then, they make a breakthrough and they begin to repair their lives.
Sometimes, this has cost them relationships. Sometimes, it makes relationships stronger. In every example, there is a moment I described as “hitting the wall,” when there did not seem to be any way out. This moment of truth causes some people to take their lives, while others, my self-included, decide that seeking professional help is the least frightening option.
In several stories about his patient experiences, he talks about how they learned to express emotions and feelings in constructive ways. But this is a process, not just a flipping of a switch and you are in touch with your feelings. In several stories, the men actually got worse, before they began to get better before they were able to share.
Will I experience this same dip in my recovery?
I can see in my writings that my focus is changing. As I share more of “how does that make you feel,” I find myself becoming sad about past events. The word ashamed is making an appearance in my vocabulary for possibly the first time in my adult life. How can this be?
Self-esteem issues are bubbling to the surface of my thinking. These, as conscious thoughts, are also very new. My self-worth is being called into question by the depression. “Are you really as good as you think you are?” “Why do you think you deserve to be in control?” I have always pushed these types of thoughts aside. My self-worth, I tied to things I have accomplished, not to my value as a person.
“I am enough.”
This is where I am headed. Understanding and accepting me, with all my flaws, beauty, and potential. I have steered clear of examining that. I will say, in the past 10 years or so, I have played to my strengths, and delegated areas that I know I am not as strong in. This was a very helpful strategy in the workplace.
It gave other managers a chance to do what they did best and helped my team be better. I wasn’t setting myself up for frustration or possible failure, and others were getting to use their strengths.
This strategy needs further review.
Can I do that with myself? Maybe I am already doing it at times and have not recognized it. Loving myself for everything I bring to the table is a new idea for me. During my recent resume writing workshops, I would remind the class that if they did not share their value with the hiring manager in a job interview, who would? So why can’t I follow my own advice? If I love myself, respect who I am, and value myself, others will see it. And if I don’t…
I wonder what they are seeing now?
And does that even matter? I need to understand what I see. I need to understand what I think about myself. I need to give myself the same courtesies I would give another human being.
I need to love myself.
Drawing comparisons to others is not the answer. Seeing others as inspiration is ok, but “why me” thinking is not.
Our societal expectations of what a strong man should do continue to encourage concealing depression. Defying this societal norm can be seen as weak. “Real men don’t cry,” is ringing in my ears. Millions of years of evolutionary coding have set expectations for men and women. We still respond to these messages, but the conditions where they were valuable have changed.
My job, as I face depression, is to understand the ways it has twisted my reality. But more important, how can I move forward and grow, knowing how it operates. It will make me jealous of others, as it tries to knock down my self-esteem. Finally saying the word depression, and going after it, is helping me see beyond it to what my life can be.
Will there be more walls?
Who knows? But I will face each day with the tools I am learning, with a new attitude towards depression and a new sense of my own worth. I am unique. I am special.
I am me. I am enough.
As I learn how to be the boss of depression, I am a sponge. Your comments are appreciated and encouraged.