I cried for the first time as an adult when I was 27. It was right before I deployed to Afghanistan — my second deployment in a few years.
A wave of sadness and loneliness hit me, something I’d never felt this strongly.
I was so overcome with emotions I jumped in my car and drove 200 miles to New York City. Surrounded by tens of thousand of people in Times Square, I broke down and cried.
Growing up, I loved watching cartoons about superheroes like Captain America, Spiderman, and Superman.
In these superheroes, I saw qualities I wanted to emulate. They were bold and courageous, fearless, and always saved the day.
Certain aspects of my life look similar to the superheroes I admired as a kid.
I signed up for West Point right after 9/11.
I led soldiers in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I once carried an injured woman off a mountain during a flash flood in Colorado.
Being bold and courageous in these areas has always come naturally for me.
With my depression— for the longest time — it was hard for me to be bold and courageous. I didn’t tell my family. I didn’t go to therapy or take medication. I hid it from my friends. And I tried to convince myself it wasn’t real.
Two years ago I smacked my head on tree and gave myself a terrible concussion. The concussion made my depression worse, and it embarrassed me. I didn’t tell anyone about my concussion. Not family, not friends, not my therapist.
My concussion made me realize it’s not healthy for me to hide certain parts of my life. The parts I’m embarrassed to talk about or that don’t look as good on paper. The parts that make me human.
I shared this with my therapist, and she wondered what it would look like for me to bold and courageous in this area of my life. To show this human side and lean into it.
So for the boy who was told by his dad to save his tears for things that matter, for the West Point Army officer who never cried during the war, and for the young professionals now working in tech, it meant opening up and talking about my struggles with depression.
Since then, I’ve opened up about my depression to trusted friends and family. And I’ve started taking medication. I’ve started crying when it’s especially hard. That’s how I’ve been able to be bold and courageous in this area — and it’s been so freeing for me.
There are difficult times still — I continue to learn more every day and how to cope. There are still many days of feeling sad and lonely and hopeless. Or feeling it’s forever winter and spring will never come.
But I’m so thankful that I took the courageous step of acknowledging that my depression is a real thing, that I’ve opened up, and that I’ve gotten the help I need.
Leaning into my depression and opening up has helped me better understand myself and helped me to better understand and support others.
It’s allowed me to be more empathetic to others who are struggling. It’s allowed me to be a better friend to those who are struggling with their mental health. It’s made me better at communicating my feelings to my wife.
Do you struggle with depression? Open up and share — and watch how healing it can be.
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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