Sitting in a waiting room. I’ve been more … off/depressed/something lately, and I think it’s affecting the kind of parent and husband I am. Just not enough patience to be the guy I want to be. Decided to switch from self-medicating with too much caffeine and alcohol to getting some sort of prescription. It’s tough to admit and talk about. I only told my wife that I thought I might need something after I had loosened up with a little booze first. (I was diagnosed with depression around 8 years ago, but I took myself off meds shortly thereafter, to her chagrin. None of this is a big surprise to her.) I’m not sure whether I’m going to write about this on my blog. Doing so is generally therapeutic and helps me figure out my own feelings, but I’m not looking forward to the aftermath. I don’t want to have to talk about it with friends and family. Actually, don’t really want to discuss it here, either. But will probably make the other shit easier later.
TL/DR: my appointment was at 9:30. Come on, doc!
I guess I was in the waiting room, alone with my thoughts and Hot Topics with Wendy Williams, for too long. Even though I had a book with me, I couldn’t concentrate on the words. I checked Facebook and looked in on what my go-to group of fellow dad bloggers was doing, then started writing the above update. It took a while to hit that little blue “Send” arrow, but there wasn’t anyone else I felt like talking to or hearing from. Not yet.
Writing this article feels timely because of Movember, and I hope I can add to the conversation about men’s health in some small way.
My depression is tough for me to talk about. Maybe because it feels like weakness, and talking about it is akin to asking for help. I don’t want help. I don’t want people asking how I’m doing. The answer is never going to stray far from “fine” or “pretty good.” It doesn’t even feel like it’s worth talking about. I don’t want to talk about my depression because it feels so … small. Silly. Kind of ridiculous. I’m able to power through and function. Maybe it’s not so bad. So why get into it? Until this week, I didn’t.
I self-medicated, instead.
I drink way too much coffee during the day to feign energy. Even though it messes with my stomach, the thought of being uncaffeinated is worse than the extra trips to the bathroom. In the evening, I switch to alcohol, so I can be more relaxed with my kids. By the time my wife comes home, chances are I’ve had my first drink or two of the night.
I’m not sure exactly how much I’ve been drinking lately. I pour a pretty generous serving of bourbon, and the beer I buy tends to be of the high-ABV variety, so what seems like 3 or 4 drinks may be closer to 5 or 6.
Aside from the drinking, I’m a pretty healthy guy and exercise a few times a week. I do Spartans and Tough Mudders, and I ran my first full marathon last year. As any runner will tell you, walking up and down the stairs the day after a particularly long or hilly run is a struggle. Something you normally do without thinking suddenly requires all your effort, which can be both exhausting and frustrating. It is also the best analogy I can come up with to how my brain feels when I’m depressed. I can feel my worn-out mind work, when it shouldn’t have to. When it should just be.
I also think about death.
It’s not like I’m suicidal. At all. I don’t want to die. I’ve always had a dark sense of humor, and these thoughts tend to creep in. I’m an atheist; I don’t think we go anywhere when we die, but not existing doesn’t scare me. Sometimes I think, “What if I got hit by that bus or was diagnosed with something terminal? Wouldn’t that make things kind of … easier?
Either I wouldn’t be around and wouldn’t have any more worries, or I’d have to focus so hard on recovering that nothing else would matter. Then I think of my children, of my wife, and I snap out of it. Not being there means not being there for them–to help and support them, or to be there for their joys.
Recently, I heard someone talking about the anti-depressant medication she was on, saying it was like being fitted for the right contact lens. Everything becomes so much clearer.
I wanted that. I could see how that would be possible, and I wanted it. It took a couple days and a few drinks to admit to my wife, to say it out loud. But I told her.
I told her that I had been feeling angry and listless, that melancholy would strike unexpectedly. She knew, some of it. I think it was a relief for her to hear that I recognized it and wanted to do something about it.
The only other people I told prior to seeing the doctor were those in the Dad Blogger Facebook group. There is comfort in telling Internet friends. I don’t have to look them in the eye, or have That Talk. There are a couple guys I could call and confide in further, and maybe I will. But I don’t have to.
It’s not just the safety of the Internet cushion, however, that makes this group unique and the perfect place to open up. To state the obvious, they’re all men. Dads. Some are stay-at-home, like I am. Others aren’t. To state another obvious, they’re all bloggers. Writers. I think there is a certain living-in-your-own-head, low-level insanity that helps bind us. A lot of us write because that is how we deal with and make sense of the world.
My difficult-to-post status update opened up a discussion among the dad bloggers, and a number of them mentioned they were going through, or had gone through, a similar experience. Others just offered support, as I knew they would. Some suggested that if writing is therapeutic, I could do so in a private post and share it with them. Or just keep it to myself. Then I wouldn’t be forced to talk about my depression with friends, family, and acquaintances who happen to read my blog.
Another part of the discussion, and part of Movember, is that we should be more open about mental health issues. I still don’t want to talk about my depression with everyone, but I will talk about it with the people I love. And maybe writing about it publicly will help someone else do the same.
Dave Lesser is a former attorney who much prefers his job as a stay-at-home dad to two hilarious and adorable children. His amazing wife fully supports his love of obstacle-course, road, and trail races. He ran his first full marathon a few months ago and still won’t shut up about it! He writes the blog Amateur Idiot, Professional Dad and is a contributor to Time Ideas, the Huffington Post, and the Good Men Project. You can follow him onTwitter, Instagram, and Facebook.