My depression is a classic textbook hopelessness.
Not the passing, “oh, I will never pass this exam,” or the “why didn’t I get the job?” While I have had many similar thoughts over my lifetime, these would only last a few days. I would get over it and move on. This feeling of hopelessness, in moderation, is a normal part of life. We all have disappointments and situations we wish could have gone a different way.
But these feelings are short-lived, diminishing over time.
My depression at its worst, has me up against the wall, with no way forward. In classic fashion, I am circling the drain. As the days drag on, hopelessness fills the void left as I withdraw from life. Yet in all but one episode, I was able to conceal my depression from the world. I am sure some people suspected something was going on, but I never, ever acknowledged my depression.
What is worse, for 44 years, I never knew I had depression.
Well, maybe I had an inclining, but I never admitted it. From youth, my mental outlook was evergreen. I was always the one people turned to for support and strength. So, when the hopelessness would appear, I would ignore it and pretend it wasn’t happening. I would count the hours until I could justify going to bed. If I had to get up early for work, I could make a case in my mind for going to bed soon after dinner.
I missed out on a lot of my life because depression and I share hopelessness.
So that is my # 1 feeling, not having feelings. I would ignore the lack of feelings and do my job. But as soon as I could run away, I would. Despite many episodes of depression where my hopelessness was in full bloom, I would go to work. It was what I must do, and I have never thought differently about that. I wouldn’t even think about it, in fact, I couldn’t think about it. Each day, I just got up and went to work.
Knowing how I felt (or didn’t feel) I am astonished that in the past 30 years, I have not missed a day of work.
Now I did get sent home one morning when I arrived at work with a severe case of the flu. But I had gotten up, showered, and shaved, gotten myself dressed and drove 50 minutes to work. One look at me and my boss sent me home.
My depression shows up as me not being worthy of anything positive or good.
This is my #2 feeling I have with my depression. Who do I think I am? You don’t have a Ph.D., only a BA. And you have only written two books, not three. You have been a store manager, a general manager, and have owned five businesses. And all made money. But why didn’t you make more money?
Turning a $90K a year business into a ¼ of a Million Dollars in sales in 20 months wasn’t good enough.
Depression made sure I felt I wasn’t worthy, so I left money on the table and I didn’t sign up every account I could have. Just as I turned the corner and all my hard work was paying off, depression reminded me I wasn’t good enough to have things work out so well. And in spite of just landing a new contract which would have required another whole route, I sold the business.
Another way I look at my #2 is I have not been success conscious (thank you Napoleon Hill).
Guilt is my #3 feeling depression shares with me. Growing up, most of my family was in “the helping others” business, including volunteering activities and missionary work. Taking that direction was not for me but admitting that still makes me feel guilty. Helping others is such a noble undertaking, why am I looking for something more?
I am so practiced at feeling guilt, that I will take the blame for something even when I haven’t done it.
I have always gone to work because I would feel guilty if I didn’t go. Even when I am sick, I have always gone to work. Now with COVID 19, I am rethinking this. If I ever have symptoms, I will self-quarantine as I await the results of a test. But you can be sure that depression will have me feeling guilty about not being at work.
To recap, my top three depression feelings are:
- Not being worthy
Last April, all three of these were on display as I fought against getting professional help.
Depression tossed these around thinking they would keep me dull enough that I wouldn’t take the next step. But after 44 years of concealing my depression, I finally had to act. I couldn’t continue to wait and hope it got better. Asking for professional help means I must admit I am worth it. This was the opposite of what depression was having me think.
And even now, 15 months later, I still carry the guilt of asking for professional medical attention, which I kind of expected.
But what I didn’t expect was that I would find tools and resources to help me understand depression. These tools have helped me make sense of hopelessness. And while I will not be 100% convinced that I am worth it, there are days where I certainly am. I am still working on guilt, but I can now recognize what is going on, which is for me a huge step forward.
Sharing my journey has been my way of working through all these feelings and more.
And the more I learn about depression, the better chance I have of leading a balanced life. This is all anyone can ask for, with or without a mental illness. Life should be about having a chance to feel life, to enjoy life to the fullest. This includes the ups and downs life will share with us.
Whether we feel or not, life goes forward.
With tools from SMART recovery, WRAP, the Change Triangle, DBT, etc., I am seeing how I can think differently. After all, I cannot change what life tosses out to me and the world. But I can control my attitude towards it. This, in the end, is the only thing I have 100% control over. And I will no longer feel guilty about it.
Not controlling my attitude towards events has led to my feelings of hopelessness over the years.
Now I am seeing all the unhelpful thinking styles depression has shared with me, always insisting that they are true. I am no longer buying into what depression is offering. And this is helping me find hope, where I was only seeing hopelessness.
What does depression look like to you?
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. I learn from them and respond to everyone.