My life has been me and then me as a title.
Son, husband, father, writer, manager, greeting card company developer, resume writer, career coach, business owner, fisherman. And this is just the shortlist.
After being in the hospital for major depressive disorder, I noticed this idea.
It is the idea that I am not good enough just as myself. I am a good manager, father, son. But if you ask me how I feel about me, without a title, I am not sure. Or worse, I feel guilty that I am not something else, something better than my best self.
Returning to the Change Triangle, I see how these defenses keep me from facing my core emotions.
The shame I feel for not being something I am not me from feeling my core emotions. These emotions lead to feeling calm, curios, connected, compassionate, confident, courageous, and clear. What I wouldn’t give to have some real compassion for myself, to myself, from myself.
And I feel guilty that I have survived my depression.
I am told I did the work to get where I am, but this doesn’t make me feel any better. So what? I am here and two people I know are not. Suicide is still a thing. And people still see it as a viable alternative to their situation.
Me, I’m still too afraid of death.
Ending it, for me is scarier than what I did for over 40 years. I would say that this time, my depression was going to be different. This time, I would be in control. But in the end, I was doing the same thing, time after time. And I was expecting a different result. Now that’s crazy.
So, I did not choose to end it ( I have a hard time saying the word suicide). I did not choose to do the same thing and expecting a different result. I chose to seek professional medical help. Not because I was strong, or that people would tell me how strong and courageous I am to seek professional medical help.
No, for me it was just the least frightening option I saw in front of me.
I am still working with all of the medical resources I discovered on my journey. And from time to time, I come back to my thinking about my self-worth, my value as an individual. And I find myself talking about myself with a title attached. Well, until now.
And this time, I am realizing that it might be possible to be just me.
In doing the leg work to gather all of my tax information, I realized that I had not written a single resume last year. I did not have a single coaching client. There were no career boot camps on college campuses. And I have not written a new book in several years.
So, in the eyes of the IRS, I am just a manager.
And in my eyes, I am realizing I do not have any outside focus, any outside business. There is no side-hustle for me, that I am spending time on. It is me, and only me.
This should be a freeing moment.
But I am terrified. And I am still retreating to my office as if I were working on a project for a client. Why am I doing that? Is it that I am afraid of just being me?
And yet, for a moment, I am considering what that would feel like, to be free.
To not have any additional roles to assume, besides being the breadwinner at a day job. I could then be a husband, father, grandpa, gardener, or be anything else I wanted to do. Entertaining this idea has got me thinking about who I am and what I value.
What do I want from the next 30 years?
How can I focus my energy to accomplish whatever it is I decide to do? With everything that I have done, choosing what I enjoy should be easy. But for me, it is not. For me, there are suddenly so many possibilities, that I cannot even see a starting point. That crazy “forest for the trees” metaphor.
I will need to spend some time with this. I know the answer is in front of me.
But I am not yet able to see it. I am still stuck on my value as a person. I have had no trouble setting goals and making them come true. What I haven’t done, is stick to things after I achieve my goal. Something else pulls my attention. I am not satisfied with what I have, I need more.
Now I am seeing depression coming out to join me.
The not being satisfied is right up depression’s alley. It can hop on to my thoughts and send me spiraling into the next abyss, oblivious to the goal I had just attained. Some of my best accomplishments have led to some of my deepest bouts of depression.
And I have noticed that, when the bill comes due, depression is no longer around. It pulls a dine and dash, leaving me to cover the tab. Often, I am left alone, without the resources to pay the bill. Depression secretly loves this, watching me wallow in my own crapulence.
Back to being me, I am still working that out.
21 months after my hospitalization, I am still working on my relationship with myself. Thankfully, I have a Psychiatrist, Therapists. Peer support advocates, and books, websites, courses, and a loving supportive family to draw from. This does make this time different.
Also, just facing depression instead of sweeping it under the rug has made me more conscious of what depression is capable of. And not concealing it allows me to directly challenge assumptions I am making about my options going forward.
I can be whomever I choose to be. I can be only me, with no title, if I choose.
Now, it is just a matter of believing myself when I say it.