My Depression and Anxiety Story
Last September, something cratered my personal life that left me feeling completely broken and empty. Things I always looked forward to were suddenly neutral to me. In the days and weeks and months that followed, I just didn’t feel anything. I was numb to life.
Snuggling with my kids? Alright, but it didn’t make me happy like it used to.
Working out? Perhaps.
Talking with friends? I avoided it because I couldn’t lie to them about how I was doing or what was going on. But I also didn’t want to talk about it because I was still numb and didn’t even know where to begin.
Eating? Not so much. I lost 10 pounds in the blink of an eye without even realizing it.
As the depression continued to consume me, I found myself struggling to keep my head above the surface. If that wasn’t enough, anxiety soon barged in through the door, like Kramer in an episode of Seinfeld.
I’ve known many people who struggle with depression and anxiety, and at times I’ve been there to help them when the monsters were unrelenting. Being on this end of things was not only wholly unexpected, but frightening. It gave me a new perspective on what those friends dealt with and it showed me just how ill-equipped I was at pulling myself through the mess, once depression and anxiety had sunk their hooks into me.
I would go about my days as best as I could, faking happiness and interest in everything for the sake of those around me. I awoke each morning feeling numb. I got my kids ready for school each morning, numb to the interactions. I went to work and interacted with colleagues and clients every day feeling numb.
The most alive I’d feel during a normal day was at night after everyone was asleep. For a brief few hours I could drop the facade. I was free to simply sit and stare off into nothingness, vaguely aware of The Office episodes playing on Netflix, in the peripheral of my consciousness.
Anxiety attacks also became a thing I had to learn to deal with. It didn’t matter where I was, what I was doing, or whom I was with when they struck.
There’s a show on TV called This Is Us and over the last couple of weeks a clip from the show has been circulating the internet. In the clip, one of the characters is working late at night and he begins to have an anxiety attack. If you haven’t seen it, click here to watch it. I’ll wait.
The way the show’s creators captured the onset of an anxiety attack hit me like freight train. They knew!
They knew what it felt like in that singular moment when the realization hits you, that while you were busy trying to live life, symptoms were slowly seeping in and you didn’t even notice until it was too late. Until you experience one yourself, you really have no idea what it’s like.
I Am Not a Rock
I was asked to speak on a panel (“I Am Not a Rock”) at the Dad 2.0 Summit in San Diego earlier this month, about self-care and coping with finding yourself having to be the emotional and supportive rock for your family. It’s a role that I’ve come to accept ever since I was a teenager. I’m very good at providing emotional support for those around me, even at the expense of processing my own feelings. When family members have passed away, for example, being there for others usually meant putting my own feelings in a box. After a lifetime of this behavior, I’ve ended up with an awful lot of boxes, each containing half-processed feelings and thoughts.
Speaking on the panel, it became painfully clear that I was not alone in feeling these emotions. While women obviously struggle with these roles and situations, too, men struggle differently with these demons. More often than not, men are left to cope with mental illness in silence with very little sense of hope or support.
And as the statistics show, it’s literally killing us. Men account for 77.9% of all deaths by suicide. (1)
If the one-on-one conversations that I had with other men after the panel are any indication, it’s a conversation that desperately needs to be broadcast far and wide, to remove the stigma that makes people feel ashamed.
Things have settled down for me, but I know it’s only a matter of time before those things rear their heads again and try to gain the upper hand.
So this is me, doing my best to share my story and my struggles, hoping that it keeps the larger conversation going.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||CDC. “Suicide Facts At A Glance.” (2015): 1. Web.: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide-datasheet-a.pdf|
THanks for writing this down. I needed to pick it up and read it.
Thanks for this. Outlines a lot my own struggles too. Be well Dan.
Dan, thank you for this post. It’s powerful, and you’re courageous. “More often than not, men are left to cope with mental illness in silence with very little sense of hope or support.” This is the truth. Let’s change this. There is no shame in seeking professional help.
Thank you for writing this. 77.9% of deaths from suicide by men absolutely blew me away. I couldn’t imagine being in a mental space where just staring off in to space alone could be such a relief. It was really eye opening to put myself in your shoes for that moment. At Mazu we believe in connecting dad’s from different families in a way that everyone can share. We went and created these online spaces where sharing can happen within and between families and dads just like you in a safe and caring environment. It’s great that you are writing about this, it is adding so much value to other men and families. Thank you and keep up the writing!