Admitting to depression, even in today’s society, is difficult. There are stigmas and prejudices that come along with that acknowledgment. For dads, this can be even more difficult.
Admitting to depression, even in today’s society, is difficult. There are stigmas and prejudices that come along with that acknowledgment that weigh heavy on those dealing with the issue of personal mental health treatment. For dads, this can be even more difficult because we feel the extra burden of being a support and a source of a certain type of strength for those around us. The deep-rooted belief that men should never show any signs of weakness, I believe, led to many undiagnosed mental issues–especially depression.
I have experienced this for the majority of my life. For a very long time, I think I knew that there was an underlying problem, something that made me not exactly mesh with the world around me. The sad part is that for thirty-eight and a half years, I just accepted it as who I was and everyone else just needed to get over it. The sudden outbursts of rage or the days of lethargy and slothfulness were just a way of life that I somehow managed to navigate and continue to function.
I became very good at being a certain person in public and being the “real” me with my family. This is not anything I am proud of; it is simply a look at who and what I was. Most of the world assumed I was an even-mannered, nice guy, who loved his family. Most of the time that is who I was, however, during the dark days, I was someone much different. While I was never physically abusive, I know that through my words, and sometimes lack of words, I did as much damage to my immediate family as a punch or a kick.
The saddest part of all that is even in the midst of my tirades or the times I simply couldn’t speak, I knew I was wrong. I knew I was doing damage, and I knew that I had to stop and completely change. I knew that when my wife needed me to tell her I loved her, or my kids needed a word of encouragement, I was supposed to be able to give it to them. I knew that when I had lost my temper over something trivial I should stop. I was aware that when an event required me to leave the house to spend quality time with them in the outside world, that I needed to.
I simply couldn’t.
Unfortunately, for me it took seeing the damage I was causing to finally decide to figure out what my problem was. I saw my children react in ways I didn’t like to the smallest issues. The arguments with my wife were tearing me apart on the inside, and the things I needed to say to her just weren’t coming out. I feared that my stubbornness or demons or whatever you wanted to call them were going to cause me to lose them all.
So I began to research, a lot of research into what exactly was going on with me. Was I crazy? Was I normal? Was it my childhood? I read online articles, I took online mental health quizzes and finally I came to the hard and serious conclusion that it was time to seek real professional help. This was something I wasn’t going to be able to stop on my own, and it wasn’t something that was going to go away.
Even at this point I couldn’t do it on my own, I finally sat down and had a frank conversation with my wife. I told her something was wrong with me; I wasn’t sure if it was depression exactly, but I knew it needed to be dealt with. I had her make the appointment, and I finally made the biggest doctors visit of my life. After some time with the doctor and finally being honest with myself, I was diagnosed with depression. I was prescribed an antidepressant and my treatment began.
Today I can tell you I am a much different person than I was just a few months ago. My wife has noticed the things that used to put me in a tailspin are no longer as big an issue. I have found a way to deal with them instead of exploding in a rage or folding like a cheap table into days of doom and gloom. I enjoy my family again, I finish projects, I go to events and take part in family activities. Just finishing this article is a major achievement and something I couldn’t have done six months ago.
Many men out there today are facing the same struggles and the same fears that I do, and, unfortunately, they aren’t taking the steps to get help. They aren’t taking those steps because of many reasons, but the main reason is just plain fear. It’s a fear of failure, a fear of judgment, a fear of knowing that something actually can be out of your control, and for many of us that is too hard to face.
Being able to look at myself and be able to realize that I am indeed an important part of the lives of those around me, and not just a one-man show is a great reward. To understand that my influence on my family and especially my children can be a positive thing and not a continuing cloud of negativity, brings me joy and a lot of hope. Hope not only for me but for the generations to follow.
Photo: Flickr/ Thomas Hawk