I had a thought provoking conversation with a friend last night. Out of respect, I won’t mention his name, but he will know who he is after reading this.
I took the step to tell my friend about what I had been through. After I had sent him a link to this blog he called within minutes. I wanted him to know because I could see the signs that he was also suffering with depression. The difference between us was that I was more proficient at hiding it. He stated during the conversation that he had no idea that I had depression, but felt refreshed that I was able to share it and identify his plight too.
It takes one to know one
I am able to say with great confidence that I have had depression for most of my life. I briefly touched upon it in my blog My father And I. In that blog I talked about the lack of identity and the complications that that had entailed.
As I grew into a man
Teenage years are often riddled with angst but I lived in a loveless home, I had accepted that I was adopted and evidence of depression was starting to emerge.
As I reached my 20s I was fully aware that there was a problem and started to seek some form of identification of what it was I was suffering. By the time I reached 30 I knew I was a sufferer. I adapted to my life and came to accept it. By the time I had reached mid 30s I was fully proficient at hiding it. I had learnt this because depression at this stage was seen as a weakness and there was no room for weakness in any parts of my life at that moment. As a result I had adapted and developed clever ways of hiding it from pretty much everyone around me. Unfortunately, this act stopped me from getting the professional help I needed at the time. In effect I had fooled myself into believing that my depression was not a problem and manageable.
Tricks of the trade
My depression went unseen and unrecognised. I was able to conceal my depression so well that I became conditioned to deal with my inner demons on a daily basis. This way my depression was not clearly visible to people who were not aware. By being able to do this I knew I had cracked the code of being able to hide my pains. I was not being deceitful, I was protecting myself and those of whom I love.
I intentionally made efforts to appear happy and upbeat.
The perception that those with depression all have a dreary personality is false. My depression was more than just a mood. It was a way of life of which I had learnt to adapt to. I had learnt to create a happy persona that often required recycling old jokes and actions because I knew they worked at particular times. My depression was my pain and not anyone else’s. I didn’t want to bring anyone else down by exposing my true feelings.
I feared abandonment and rejection.
Depression for me felt like leprosy. I feared being rejected and cast aside. An outsider. Unloved and unclean. I had felt rejection at an early age due to my adoption and this was more deeply ingrained than I had given it credit for.
I felt that if I had let someone in enough to see the depression, they would walk way. As a result, I can see now why I had had a series of failed relationships. It endorsed my need for secrecy, out of fear of rejection from those of whom I love. There was nothing more painful than to expose the ugliest layer of my personality that I wished to hide even from myself.
I was an expert at deflecting questions.
During my lowest periods I knew how to avoid any unwanted attention. The use of humour was good, but I also used a tactic I called ‘questioning’. I found that people often liked to talk about themselves. From this approach, I would ask an open question that required them to discuss their views and feeling on a subject. By doing this it required them to speak for longer than I needed to, hence I didn’t have to talk or explain.
I had habitual remedies.
My relationship with medication was always a bit ‘on and off’. I took them and then when I felt better, I stopped (foolish this to do). In-between these periods of medication I used to use activities that offered a routine. This gave me goals to reach by certain times of the day. It was often in the form of music, walks, and so on. If by 5 o’clock for example, I had made it to the time of day for my daily walk, then I was doing ok.
I understood the impact of certain substances.
I have always known that alcohol can be problematic for people with depression. As a result I became tea-total to avoid falling into its grasp. This was further validated by witnessing the effects of alcohol on people around me and ultimately my step mother. I knew that caffeine was an upper and so was sugary foods. As a result, I favoured coffee over tea and could polish off a large amount of sweets quite easily.
I had a very good understanding of life and death.
I have spent most of my life trying to work it all out. Especially the meaning of life. Is it a pursuit of something, or are we to reach certain points in various stages of our lives? As a paramedic, I also witnessed a range of deaths. I quickly learnt which were more favourable ways to die over others. I feel I became an expert in death and its aftermath. As a result, even now whilst I feel ok, I have no fear of death. However, I must admit, following my treatments and medication I have given less time and thought to the later.
I needed to find a purpose.
My goal in life was that I had a purpose. What I was needing to do was to find something that was worthwhile otherwise my life had been pointless. But for me I also needed reassurance that I was moving in the right direction (whatever that is or was). Recognising my depression also gave me a feeling of inadequacy. I felt inadequate compared to the people around me. Everyone was happier than I. Other people were better at their job than I and this compounded my feeling of being a failure even though I was fighting a battle to give my life a purpose. I felt I even failed when my best efforts were in place. As a result I was always trying to compensate in my life for the frailties that I had inside. Even now I am still striving and searching for more to validate my purpose in life.
The meaning of life with depression
The reality of my life with depression is that I have been striving to find love and acceptance. This stemmed from trying to be accepted by my adopted family to the need to find my father. But the reality is that everyone strives for this requirement. It’s human nature. My personal advice is to never turn away from a person who seems to be struggling. Love us, especially when it’s difficult.
I once heard a quote from Stephen Fry who stated that
“I hate the fact that I have [depression]….. but I wouldn’t want to live without it because it is a part of me that I have come to accept…”
What I want to say to my friend who I spoke to last night is this. I knew you had depression from the moment I first met you. How? Because you showed all the signs that I had perfected. As I have highlighted, it takes one to know one. Embrace it, it has made you the outstanding man that you are.