The most important thing to remember about concealed depression is you will not feel much of anything.
But that’s OK.
Feelings get in the way and muddy the waters. Facts are easier to deal with and don’t have an agenda. Feelings and emotions can take time to sort out and slow down the process. My ability to open myself up and share feelings has been muted by my depression.
For years, I assumed something like depression was happening to me.
But my job was to be the “man with the plan, EVERGREEN.” I needed to be the one everyone could count on, so facing anything like depression just wasn’t in the cards. So now, to make some sense of my earlier life, I say things like “I think of 1977 as the lost year.” And people for years have let me get away with that. And I let myself get away with saying that repeatedly.
Yes, I was lost, but until the stuff hit the fan, I was a high-functioning depressed person.
That year, I had my own business. I cleaned hundreds of chimneys as a Master Chimney Sweep. I had one week where I grossed over $1,000. That was a huge sum of money for most people 40 years ago. Despite the growing storm of MDD, I could get up and run my business. The tough part was it took all my energy. But I did it.
Then one day, I couldn’t do it anymore.
I couldn’t run my business; I couldn’t face people. Heck, I had a hard time being alone with myself. And by the time this was happening, I felt I had already discovered what I thought was the cure for my condition. I had started running. Not put your shoes on and get on the treadmill for 20 minutes, but Forest Gump type running. At times, I would do six-plus miles without a break.
As I was spiraling out of control, I was also laying the groundwork for an unprecedented 15 years of keeping depression away.
I was sure that 1977 was just one of those things. This was my transition from just thinking I was an adult, to becoming an adult. But behind it was a family history of depression. We didn’t talk about it. And if we did, we called it “nerves.” I couldn’t have depression; it just wasn’t possible. So, in my mind, I did not have depression. I just had a “lost year.”
Before getting back on track, I ended up in a campground living off my meager savings.
Not having health insurance, it never even occurred to me that I might need professional help. Since I wasn’t interested in what I had, I wasn’t aware of the resources to address it. Depression had completely isolated me from everyone I cared about. And it had separated me from the life I had expected to live.
I was embarrassed to think of what had happened and how I was living if you could call it that.
Those final days were a blur of emptiness where I attempted to read books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and the writings of Alan Watts. “Where is the master? He is on the mountain. Cloud-hidden, whereabouts unknown.” I still have the paperbacks on my bookshelf. Torn pages and broken spines, they are still all readable.
I paid my final rent with the barter of a wood stove I had purchased. It was worth more than the rent I owed, but you know what the going rate is in pawn shops. I’m not sure where it ended up. I just could not talk about what was going on and since I would have had to deal with the stove…
What a scoundrel thing to do to my friend who owned the house.
I’ve never apologized. In fact, I have spent over 40 years not thinking about it, or at least trying to avoid thinking about him and how things ended. He found me 8 or 9 years ago on Facebook, and while I did accept the friend request, I never responded beyond “hey.” I didn’t know what to say and at that moment, all I could think of when I said yes to the friend request is, “I hope he doesn’t want to talk.”
I wish I were stronger instead of having a shoulda, woulda, coulda, moment, and only saying “hey.”
It turns out I remember quite a bit about my lost year. Yet, it was one where I concealed my depression whenever I needed too. Thinking about it now, though, I am sure I wasn’t as wonderful an actor as I thought I was. I can imagine the gossip that surrounded my melt-down and eventually moving home. But I was self-absorbed and only saw the world from my very narrow, depressing perspective.
And in my mind, I did not have depression, so I wasn’t even concealing it.
In my mind, I was just keeping a positive, can-do attitude and doing what needed to be done. I made it through each day with the promise that I could get in bed as early as possible, and not have to face anyone or anything.
But depression is persistent.
This lost year turned out to be the practice round for me and depression. Depression was just having a little fun, seeing what it could kick up in me. About 15 years later, depression began a new round of assaults on my success. By then, I was married, had three beautiful children, and a position that would set us up for life. And depression hated everything associated with my success.
So, depression secretly had me start thinking about giving it all up.
But that’s another story. Before this next episode was over, I had perfected the art of concealed depression. I would come back to that many times before I ended up seeking professional help.
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.