I am certainly no mental health expert, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know how this awful disease has disrupted my life and the life of my family.
Over the course of my life, especially before I started to get treatment, I have had times that depression and anxiety would almost completely shut me down. I was still able to appear alive and well, but inside, there wasn’t anything but what could only be described as terror. The kind of fear that only allows you to see doom and everything in life ending badly. It’s not a great feeling at all, but the effect it had on those around me was just as difficult for me to take.
My wild mood swings put strains even on the best relationships. It was usually written off as moodiness or just a generally bad mood, but it was so much more. Those of you who have struggled with this terrible affliction will understand. The problem, however, is that for those aren’t cursed with this disease sometimes have a difficult time accepting that it is out of the control of the person affected. What seems minor to you gets blown way out of proportion to us, and reactions seem so overblown and out of line.
In my worst moments, I was a horrible human being, that couldn’t be reasoned with or comforted. I would throw out all the common decency that I had and unleash hell on whoever happened to be there. If you made the slightest mistake or said the wrong thing at the wrong time, you saw a different side of me, one that I am not proud of.
Those times were difficult for everyone, especially me. In my mind, even while they were happening, I was screaming at myself internally to stop, just stop! But I couldn’t, I didn’t know how, and sometimes I wondered if I even wanted to.
There were a lot of things that I said at that moment, most of them I regret, but the problem was all the things I couldn’t say. The things that simply wouldn’t or couldn’t come out of my mouth. My brain wouldn’t allow it; my feelings held them in place my depression locked them in a place that I couldn’t access. For a lot of us, men especially it is difficult to fully express our emotions, feelings and thoughts. When you mix in depression and anxiety, those things become a near impossibility.
In those moments, there were things I simply couldn’t say no matter how hard I tried. Many men have the same struggle, and it’s important to recognize when that is the case.
We can’t say what’s wrong– When someone is in a bad mood or seems to be upset about something, many people want to try to fix it, especially wives. The only way they say they can help is if we tell them what’s wrong. The problem is we don’t know, we haven’t the foggiest idea what the hell is wrong. We know deep down that whatever the trigger was probably wasn’t the real issue. We want to be able to say what’s wrong; we want to calm down and get over it but we just can’t.
We can’t say we’re sorry– In the heat of the moment, in the middle of an episode of depression or anxiety, we probably say hurtful things. We may have even made you cry, and we are sorry we just can’t express it. At least, for me, it was a defense mechanism to somehow prove to myself that I was right about whatever irrational thought was running through my head. The apology usually comes later, and even then it’s difficult and usually comes in some other form. The problem is that it’s usually too late, and the damage has been done.
We can’t say we need space– I never could anyway, even when I knew I was in a bad place mentally, I could never express that I needed some alone time. This was actually when the most hurtful thing I could say came out. It wasn’t that I meant any of it, it was that I needed to be left alone, I needed space, and I needed time to gather myself I just couldn’t say it. I know that sounds ridiculous and somewhat childish, but it’s true the more I was pressed the most vicious I could become until I had pushed someone away.
We can’t say we need help– This is all too true for many men with mental health problems. We still live in a society that looks differently at those who admit that there may be a problem. Our culture is changing, but it is changing too slowly. We are taught from an early age not to show weakness, and this only exacerbates the difficulty searching for treatment. When we finally do admit to ourselves that something isn’t right, we are still unable to express that to anyone else. It took me a very long time, too long, to be able to admit to anyone and seek treatment. The time I wasted cost me some great experiences and opportunities. The regret will always be there.
I am certainly no mental health expert, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know how this awful disease has disrupted my life and the life of my family. It’s not something I am proud of, and the hurt I have caused may never be fully forgiven. All I can do moving forward is to take care of myself and work to get better every day.
Photo: Flickr/ Arun Venkatesan