Some days it is a pebble and the hill is hardly noticeable.
Other days, it is a boulder and the hill is more of a mountain, that ascends almost vertically from the valley floor. During these days, my depression is everything. Concealing it and acting to the world like nothing is wrong takes all my energy. And I mean every single ounce of energy I can muster to keep people from seeing that I have MDD (major depressive disorder)
I am more afraid of people knowing I have MDD than I am of the disease itself.
That is probably why I spent 43+ years hiding depression from even myself. I must be a solid foundation for the family. There cannot have any chinks in my armor. I must be “evergreen,” always-on, never letting my guard down for a second to let anyone see behind the curtain.
This posture has strained every relationship I have ever had.
And while I have thousands of friends around the globe, I know little about them and they know less about me. Now, this does not mean that I am not sociable, I can spend 30 seconds to three minutes with anyone. I can find out about their new baby, a new job, how their parents are doing, what their last vacation was like.
And I feel I share quite a bit about what is going on in my life.
I talk about my vegetable garden, how the tomatoes are doing. Or I talk about needing to bring the bird feeders in at night, so the bears do not pull them down and eat the seed. Sometimes I describe the fox I saw crossing the road on my drive home or the trip we are planning.
What I am doing is stating the facts.
If the conversation takes a twist and feelings come into play, I am out of there in a heartbeat. For over a year now, I have been test-driving my feelings. There are times when I have felt things and have given honest responses to how I feel. It scares me to do this. All the what if’s come out and dance around my responses.
If I just report the facts, I am either wrong or right.
Unlike emotions, there is no grey area when you state the facts. I have been proud of my ability to report the facts, just the facts, and only the facts. Letting you know how I feel about the facts was never something I did.
Why should I tell people how I feel?
As soon as you do that, they can judge you, can’t they? People can decide if they agree or disagree with how you feel about something. I do not want people not to like me, while at the same time, I have always lived my life my way, and done what I wanted to, or so I thought.
However, that singleness of purpose is depression driven.
I did have a partner; I just had not acknowledged it. Being secretive, MDD, and I stayed in touch in mysterious ways and never were seen together in public. It is that T-shirt about Batman which says: “I must be Batman, no one has ever seen me and Batman in the same room.”
Getting back to the rock and the hill, today both changed sizes.
This is not unusual. I start the day with a boulder, and then as the day goes on, the stone becomes smaller and easier to push. Yet other days are non-stop big boulders and a massive hill. The months leading up to my hospitalization for major depressive disorder were a series of big boulders all needing to be pushed up the same darn hill.
Escaping to sleep, as much as possible, I would make excuses for going to bed early.
In bed, I did not have to push the boulder. The morning I went to the hospital, my original plan was to just stay in bed. I had never done that, but the sound of not having to face myself and my depression was very appealing. But in the end, I got up anyway. I showered, put on clean clothes, and left the house.
People still congratulate me for making the decision to seek medical attention.
But to me, going to the hospital was just the least frightening of the three choices I saw. I could continue to do what I had always done but hope for a different result. This choice was the craziest of the three I was working on. Number two, I could commit suicide, but that scared me even more. I am way too competitive to check out. I want to see my 100th birthday, there is still so much to do.
This left me with seeking professional medical help.
That morning, as I drove to the hospital emergency room, I could not even see forward, because the boulder was so big. And the mountain was obscured by the boulder. I could not even see where to begin to push, it was so overwhelming.
A little over a year after facing my depression head-on, I am still learning the pluses and minuses of having it.
But the final chapters of my life have not been written. By saying no to suicide and yes to life, I am moving the boulder. I can even use unhelpful thinking to my advantage. By minimizing the boulder and the hill, I can maximize my idea of how easy it is to move it up the hill. And many days in the past year, that has worked.
Each day, I awake with the rock ready to be pushed back up the hill.
Some days I am ready, and some days I am not. People without MDD have those kinds of days, I get that. So, this is not unusual. What makes it different for someone like me with MDD is there is always a boulder and there is always a hill. (I am paraphrasing Frank King. )
Connecting with Frank King on LinkedIn was the best thing I have done recently for my depression. I will share more of what I am learning in future posts.
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.