I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months now for depression. Together, we’ve figured out that I’ve probably had it since puberty, but never put a name to it or admitted I even had a problem. But, looking back, yeah. Actually pretty obvious.
I’m always angry. Hence the image for this post. But it’s not just angry. There is always a simmering, boiling, font of rage lurking just off to the side in my mind. Anything can set it off. Everything does. I’ve spent my whole life keeping it under control. Not always successfully. I apologize for that. There’s no way I could name everyone, so just know I’m sorry. I would hit my brother and sister when they were small children. A quick smack. Probably wouldn’t seem like anything to most, but I’m sorry for it now. I was just so angry, so quickly, I didn’t think. I haven’t seriously abused anyone, thankfully (except in “approved” venues like high-school football), but I have been mean, cruel, loud, angry, vicious, and dismissive. I’ve lashed out in so many ways, and I’m sorry.
I choked a kid in a middle school art class and another kid had to pry my fingers from his throat. I had a “red-out” on the school bus in late middle school when another kid was teasing me physically and the next thing I knew a high-schooler who was a friend of my sister was holding me down, several seats away, telling me to stop or I’d get expelled. I don’t really know what I did to that kid. I snapped in a football game and tackled a kid so hard they took him off on a stretcher. I clotheslined a kid in a basketball game and was thrown out after he came up bleeding from the mouth.
I haven’t had any violent episodes since high-school. I’m not saying I’m proud of that, I’m just relieved. It hasn’t always been easy. I really don’t want to hurt anyone, and I want that to stay in the past.
I’ve got two kids now. If you are a parent, you know they can hit your buttons pretty quickly. I got scared. I didn’t want my rage to come out. So I did a search on the internet. I saw a lot of stuff like this from NIMH, Mayo, etc.
Covert depression doesn’t look like the depression with which we are generally familiar, especially to the people around a man who is in the throes of this particular emotional upheaval. Instead, what the people around us tend to witness is subtle irritation, road rage, explosive arguments, passive-aggression, slovenliness, self-sabotage supported by a failure to follow through and/or a faint sense of insecurity…
That was the first time I had ever heard that depression could show in men as anger. I think we all have that image of depression from the drug commercials. You know the one. The sad-looking woman leaning her head on the window while it rains outside (or some variation on the theme). I’d never thought of myself as depressed because I didn’t feel sad. I’m not sad. I’m a happy guy, mostly. Wonderful family, amazing wife, good job, etc. But I am always, always pissed. It’s always right there.
I tried dabbling a bit in meditation and reading up on zen and other things that are supposed to help. They maybe did, a bit. It’s hard to judge by yourself. But I could tell it wasn’t enough. I was terrified I’d hurt my family.
So I talked to my amazing wife. She said she’d been noticing that I was getting worse for some time. I’d been open about my “black moods” as I called them. When I would spend a week or so just extra angry, nothing would interest me, hobbies were abandoned, games were dropped, I would mostly just sit and read for hours. Escape into some other world. But apparently I was getting worse. They were longer, deeper, more often. When I said I was thinking of getting help, she was very supportive. Of course she was, she’s amazing.
So I looked up a therapist, which was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The majority in my area were Christian based. Being a non-believer, all that would do would make me angrier, I knew. It doesn’t take much and that would definitely do it. But I found one and started seeing her fairly regularly.
I’m still coming to grips with things. Had a big blow a few weeks ago when I realized a big turning point in my life that I’ve always been very proud of was probably the onset of depression. In middle school, I had a major change in my life, my attitude, my whole self. I had been an incredibly self-obsessed child. Impressed by my own ability and more than willing to tell everyone how awesome I was. It didn’t help that my abilities really could back it up, feeding into my assholishness and making it worse. Then, suddenly, I hated myself. I realized I was a total prick, that no-one would ever love me the way I was. I’d never have a girlfriend (and I really wanted one). I’d never have real friends. I’d probably never be successful because who would want to work with me?
So I changed. I know it sounds silly, but it really was that profound. I became a person more concerned with others than myself, because I wasn’t really worth worrying about. I set a goal for my life (that I failed to reach, and have beat myself up on it ever since), made some lifelong friends and got a girlfriend. My family noticed, my teachers noticed, I noticed. I’ve always been proud of that.
It was probably a chemical change in my brain triggered by puberty and tied in to depression. That kind of sucks. Kind of takes that transformation I’ve always been so proud of away from me. I almost have to thank depression for who I’ve become. Which is messed up, but there it is.
Why am I posting this? Why am I talking about it at all? Well, because we have to. We have to stop the stigma, the attitudes that keep this stuff hidden. How many other men out there are violent and dangerous because of depression? They could get help, stop hurting those around them. But how will they ever know if no one ever talks about it?
The title of this post comes from https://makeitok.org/ Where they work to reduce the stigma, stop the silence and encourage and facilitate open conversations about mental illness. I found out about this website from a podcast called The Hilarious World of Depression, which is a lot more fun than it sounds. It is another effort to end the stigma. To make this conversation commonplace. People with depression, anxiety, or whatever, shouldn’t feel like they need to hide it. You’ve probably hired, worked with, worked for or even voted for someone suffering from depression and never knew. Because we all hide it. We all are afraid we’ll lose our job or your support if we share.
Well, I’m not doing that. It helps that I’m only coming to this realization now when this stuff is much more “out there”. I didn’t struggle with the knowledge through the darker ages of mental illness. I’m “lucky” for that, I guess. But I’m not hiding it. Not keeping it secret. Not worrying about what it will do to my job or my future because it’s just who I am and that’s ok.
If you have any questions about any of the resources I’ve listed, how you go about finding a therapist, you just want to talk about depression, or whatever, I’m happy to talk. That’s the whole point of this post, after all. So, please, don’t hesitate. I’m not an expert, I’m just learning to cope myself, but I don’t ever want to hide.