I circle back to this subject frequently. I think it’s my way of coping because I have never officially reached out and talked to someone other than friends or to myself. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dialogue with one’s self if you ask me. I have never sat down with someone who, with pad and pencil in hand, asked me about my life and concluded I have been battling depression and anxiety all of my life. I have always simply referred to them as my “darkness” as though giving them a different name somehow alleviates me from talking about them directly. I want to provide you today with some examples of what I mean because I truly believe me telling my story might help someone else. What triggered all of this? A little less about Bell Let’s Talk Day (which is today, and while important, only played a small part in this decision), but more because I sat in awe reading a post from someone within my family–now there’s a story to tell you about, how we’re related, but we’ll save that for something special he and I have talked about–and how he’s been struggling and how he had thoughts of suicide. Naturally, I reached out and replied to him in hopes of encouraging him to fight on through his own “darkness.” This morning I was reading his latest update and about his hopes and dreams of the future. I was filled with happiness. And although I know his struggles are not over, I am confident that he will be okay.
So, Nathan, you have inspired me to open up a little more.
— Let’s talk. —
Growing up I was an awkward kid. I never quite fit in and I was often bullied for it. I don’t blame my bullies entirely because this isn’t about who’s responsible for what happened, but for perspective. Even for a period of time, I focused very much on my appearance and what others thought of me. We’ll circle back to that one later. I had outlets, though. I was creative and artistic picking up on music, drawing, even some little crafting, but my outlet was writing. I loved to write. I used to carry a couple of art books with me that I furiously sketched and wrote in. Everything I felt was poured into those pages and it all ran the course of teenaged emotions. It was cathartic.
But one day it all stopped. No more writing. Just silence. I can pinpoint in my memory the exact day my youth died and not only took my drive to put pen to paper, but positively obliterated it. I wrote a post about it back in 2014 on this blog. I won’t get too deep into it here, but you can read it if you would like. Click here.
Trust me, I have tried to reignite that fire in me to write. This blog is a key example of it, but the number of discarded drafts half completed remain as a testament of each failed attempt. Why, though? What stops me. Well, that brings me back to what triggers my anxiety and then, ultimately, my depression … or what I colloquially call my “darkness.”
… And even as I write this I can hear that little voice in the background. What it says changes, but the message is always the same …
“Don’t be stupid. No one cares about what you have say.”
“Look at you. Look at how you look. Gross. Fat. Pig.”
“Everyone’s laughing at you. You know they are.”
“You don’t deserve to be happy.”
“You are a failure.”
“You’ve let everyone who trusts and loves you down.”
The little nagging voice can sometimes turn into a chorus with lines like those and discourage me from doing little of anything. Most of the time I wear a good mask. I still go to work. I hide behind a smile. I have a usually casual, if not chipper attitude when working. Yet there have been days where all I wanted to do was crawl into a ball and hide. And when the voices win and tell me to “quit pouting” and to “man up” I tend to find myself at my lowest. This is when I turned to the only thing I found comfort in since writing and that is food.
I hate that “man up” phrase so very much. I don’t even know what manning up truly means. It’s not something I have ever really done. All I know is that because I am a man I am somehow supposed to cast aside how I feel for the betterment of my manhood. How in the world does that make any sense? It is one of those final nails in my coffin that have me sitting alone, even while around others, and stuffing my face full of potato chips and sweets. All those voices chorused together telling me how useless I am. Worthless I am. That everyone is laughing at me. And worse, as I eat and eat and eat, telling me how disgusting and fat I am. It’s enough to drive someone absolutely mental!
Just when you think there’s a limit, I snap. I get so angry with myself and so down on myself that something happens, or something is said (both being exceeding insignificant in the greater scheme of life), and I absolutely lose myself in my own rage and let go. Regrettably, that has been toward loved ones more times than I can count or wish to recount. My Aunt Marianne once had to endure my rants in letter form (ironically), for example. Or my wife, Sarah, would watch me pitch a container of eggs because they were just not balanced right… Trust me, it sounds as over the top nuts to me today as it likely does to you, but that was my process. Sink low… then explode.
I don’t know if I will ever sit down with someone who, with pad and pencil in hand, will listen to everything I have to say and get off my chest. I have somewhat learned to cope with it all and over the past several months I have started to finally let go of it all. That it doesn’t matter if people laugh at me. If they think of me gross because I let my weight get away from me. Or if they think I have anything of value to contribute. The important thing is that I believe that I better than the sum of all of my nagging little voices and that I move forward. And I have tried, even if casually, start a journal again.
I’ll leave you with this warm and fuzzy feeling. While sitting in the waiting room at the Weight Loss Management Clinic I read a simple quote that I think very much changed my perspective on life. “A step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.” That’s where I am today. Cleaning up my life. Trying to work on expressing myself in healthy ways. Reaching for something other than food when I am not feeling down.
So… if you’ve made it this far and need to, let’s talk.