This is a very different type of blog post because instead of writing it by hand I decided that I would dictate with voice and only edit my grammar mistakes that I make to these spoken words. I will speak about things that have happened in the recent past, about things that have changed me as a person after a bout with depression forced me on a journey in and out of a “large desert” and it forced me to take inventory of myself many times since. The journey has been hard, confusing and and I am not sure humans like snakes know when they shed their skin into something better.
Where to begin, I am sitting here drinking a very warm cup of coffee after being out walking the dog, part of what you will hear or read are my thoughts that I’ve been having recently and I decided to talk them out while I was walking my dog. It seems I had been waiting for the right moment where I should say these feelings out loud and hope that all those that might feel the same way might understand that they are not alone.
I have the last many years been fighting with or struggling to better understand myself and it started with a bout of depression. There are many things combined that I would say led to this depression part of it is my personality, which I won’t go into detail here. Part of it is the baggage that I carried as part of after my father passed away as a boy that was reinforced as a young man in Manhattan and the match that lit the fuse had to do with health related issues at the time and that I also lost my job right before the financial crisis. All these things come together all at the same time to make the “The Perfect Storm.”
Depression to me is very difficult to describe to others, part of the problem is the stigma around understanding the mechanisms about being depressed. I would describe depression and the process around depression as the equivalent of wandering out into the desert carrying all of your possessions and you need to slowly begin to drop these possessions in hopes that as you lose these things it will help you survive. More importantly, the person that comes out of this desert is not the same one that entered it by any means and the process of re-learning yourself takes years.
I think the hardest part of my depression was that I lost thee very sense of myself. I literally dropped my inner compass and it broke. For me, I decided after speaking with my doctor that I would also go on medicine for the depression and I believe that this helped me and hurt me at the same time. Let me explain what I mean by this, it helped me in such a way that all the feelings and the swings in my emotions became even-keeled, flat lined and this was positive because it helped me start the journey. At the same time, it hurt me because I rely heavily on my feelings and instincts to give me direction and purpose in my everyday life. While, I was on medication my very compass disappeared and it felt like I was wondering aimlessly in a sea of fog. The sea of fog is where I felt I lost the feeling for myself in time and place and the only thing that kept me moving was the love from my family, the daily routines of kids and the very idea that any direction was better than no direction. As a person who relied heavily on their feelings and their instincts to give them meaning and direction in their everyday it was difficult for me because I had lost this ability and had to relearn to trust others and myself without having this compass.
It’s a strange thing to say but I was like a ghost in my own-self, wandering through all of the internal empty rooms alone and as a stranger. These beautiful rooms were the ones that I had built from past memories, past feelings; the good things and bad things. It is hard to even say this – the recognition of the fact that I was lost in the past not wanting to participate in any of the present or having any idea if there was a future. This may seem scary to many to hear such a thing and I promise you that it was the most frightening part of recovering from depression.
It was very frightening to realize that I did not understand my place in the present moment and I had no desire to be anything in the future. It is this one sentence that would sum up my depression. I knew looking into myself that these feeling were dangerous but yet I had no power to find a vision of myself in the future or gather the strength of desire to do something about it. In my metaphor about being alone in the desert it was this wandering where I felt most unsure of myself, unsure as I slowly stripped off all of the past grievances, memories and things that I had tied me up inside. It was like peeling back a very large onion never knowing or sensing when I would actually get to the center of this journey and find my way back again.
Many that know me might be thinking where is your faith in these times and I would say that I would normally rely on my faith but it seems that as I lost faith in myself, I lost all faith in many other things. It is a funny thing that actually say that I lost faith in myself first and that there was a rippling effect in all things I had faith in up to that point.
I lost religious faith or in my understanding of what it meant to believe in a god. Part of this might have just been that it was a traditional upbringing, I was raised a Catholic, I had this idea and sense of guilt and purpose that came out of my faith. I worked 4½ – 5 years in Manhattan at an Interfaith group pursuing my faith by helping the poor and homeless in Manhattan. Helping homeless people in New York City and being confronted with many challenges was a life-changing event for me. However, there was also a negative side to New York and that was that the very person that invited me into Manhattan was verbally abusive to me and much of what he said and the way that he said it reinforced the deep-seated feelings I had about myself after my father passed away when I was a teenager. This was many years ago and I actually have no hard feelings for this person, I have moved much further beyond any of this but it’s just the recognition that I went from feeling abandoned and lonely after my father had passed away and into a situation where I was growing into a young man and at the same time being emotionally torn down by the very types of people who should be lifting me up and when I left New York City it wasn’t a celebration in the sense that those who had invited me there were excited to see me go.
It is the accumulation of all these things that I had confused into what it meant to have faith. Part of my process was to abandon all of this and to drop all of the baggage that I haven’t caring in my life in regards to how I understood Faith up until this point. I wouldn’t say that the last 8 years of my existence has been void of a soul-searching time but more the need to wander through the desert without any luggage to hold me down and just to make it from waterhole to waterhole in hopes that I would find simplest things of myself in all the mirages and desert storms. I didn’t know the end point at the time but I could slowly feel that I was preparing myself to come back to my very own civilization and rebuild everything that I had destroyed just more beautiful and more part of who I am.
I would like to touch again on that part in regards to Faith, I recognize in the moment that the idea of God that I have believed in no longer fits to the need that I have has an understanding of the person that I had become. It was like I had shed my skin like a snake without of recognizing the new person that came out the other side and the faith that found around the time from when my father had passed away until I was a grown adult was not the same faith that I needed as a grown man.
It seemed at the time that having faith became an insurmountable stumbling block to know me. Therefore, I had to walk away from all ideas about what it was meant to believe in god and all the dogma that surrounded such a belief. I would argue that it was this Dogma that was partially to blame for the my depression, the idea of not being good enough or not being wanted even by God at the very core of what it means to be human. To accept that god had created me(and knew of me before the creation of universe) as something unwanted and not good enough for his own love. This thought is something that held on to me for a very long time that I needed something extra to be good enough in the eyes of the christian god, something I had to accept that was over and beyond the very act of my creation which is in his own imagine. I struggled with this and after having children I couldn’t imagine telling my children that they are never good enough to me unless they did something and accepted something that only I have to give to them and without acceptance, I would cast them aside forever. These thoughts collided with my own love for my children and became part of a stumbling block where I needed to to start again. Therefore for me, I needed to abandon all these things, leave behind all of these memories and possessions and find the very core of myself what it was meant to be me as a person.
I understand that this part about faith can be hard to understand and I’m not seeking consensus and what I am writing is just to explain the path that I have been traveling for quite awhile. While out walking the dog today I could feel deep inside myself a sense of purpose and meaning that I had been missing for many many years. It was also a realization that I no longer was wandering in the desert and that I had already begun re-build myself up again and it is time to focus again on doing more exercise, eating right, reading more books and spending less time on the computer. More importantly to spend time looking people in the eyes, shaking their hands and building new relationships with others as part of the foundation going forward.
In retrospect, I would say to those that are suffering from depression do not fear at all the road you are traveling, seek help, keep moving, keep doing, keep searching and turn over all the stones you need to turned over to find yourself back to the place where you can begin to rebuild.
To those people who have loved ones who suffer from depression it might be difficult for them to explain how they feel or what they are going through because they themselves might not even be able to place words on everything that is happening to them. It is taken me many many years to actually be able to put words on the things that I have felt and the things that I have had to go through to be able to write these words or speak these words today. You should know that those that suffer from depression appreciate you being there even if they never say it with words. You are the watering hole in the desert or a milestone marker on a path where they can’t see the direction they are going but they look forward to stopping at a familiar point in the road.