I wish I’d known that I had depression all these years. I never thought about having severe recurring depressive disorder. When my psychiatrist diagnosed me with the disorder, I felt terribly screwed up in the head. He further explained that the severe depressive disorder was driving my addictions, specifically my forty-one year run with marijuana which I wrote about in Life in a Bong, How Pot Ruined My Life & How I Got it Back.
I thought I was your average middle class kid growing up in suburbia America. Sure, my parents were abusive to my brother and I. Mental, physical and emotional abuse caused me to walk on eggshells in the house fearing that I would be caught doing something wrong that warranted punishment-ouch! But, I thought that happened in everyone’s family. I had no clue that that would cause me so many maladies down the road of my life.
Neither did Kosta Karageorge, who was the central figure of a recent New York Times article, A Young Athlete’s World and Where it Led Him by Tim Rohan. He took his life at a mere twenty-two years old. Kosta played football and wrestled in high school and college.He felt extreme pressure to win at all costs and became the ultimate alpha-male. He would track his roommates “man points”. At times, he did not report concussions he experienced because he wanted to play football. He could not look at the bright screen on his smartphone because the brightness gave him headaches and made him dizzy. But, Kosta often concealed his condition from those around him.
Kosta often had headaches and vomiting, was seen crying in his room for no apparent reason, heard a buzzing noise in his head, and thought someone was following him when there was no one there.
Kosta went missing for some time and was found dead in a garbage dumpster with a pistol lying next to his body. He most likely had CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes and others with a history of repetitive brain trauma. CTE is often associated with depression among other things.
Like many others, Kosta chose not to reveal the extent of his condition, when he could have been treated for his diseases that would have left him living life. It turns out that he had experienced fifteen concussions by the time of his death.
The point is that men in a general sense walk down the same path as Kosta. They suffer in some manner but won’t ask for help that could treat their symptoms. Why don’t men talk about their conditions in this area, especially since so many men end up “eating their gun” and terminating the gift of life that God gave us?
Let me shine a light on some of the reasons. Like myself, many do not realize that they are carrying around the heavy baggage called depression. They are lacking that awareness. It can be triggered by the death of a loved one, mistakes at work, or rejection by women, to name a few causes. Then our minds begin a very negative dialogue that tells us that we are losers or no good. We feel heavy, listless, lacking energy and enough sleep. Something that I learned is to NOT always believe what your mind tells you.
But we don’t want others to know what is really going on with us. We think we may be perceived as weak, vulnerable, or losing our masculinity. And we sure don’t want others to look at us that way. Some men grew up with parents that were ragers or violent, which created fear inside of our minds. I know I never wanted to do anything that could be perceived as a mistake for fear my Dad’s belt would end up on my rear-end. Who wants that?
Another experience that leads to this is the behavior of our chief role model, our father. Most fathers’ I believe, choose to not speak about their personal issues with their sons. We just don’t want to go there. What other’s think of us may become tainted and negative. Thus, the toxic legacy of men in the family continues in the same negative and potentially damaging direction. It is challenging to stand up for what you believe when it goes into direct opposition of what your Dad or even both parents believe.
Which would you rather practice in life? Physical illness that cripples you in some manner or getting treatment for those maladies? Alcohol and substance abuse that can take your life and your family away from you or asking for help in order to remedy the solution? Domestic violence and/or going to jail or getting help in removing that type of behavior from your repertoire? Do you want to be a failure in achieving intimacy with others or can you seek guidance that will open you up to being close to others and enjoying it? And, do you want to self-sabotage yourself such that it can affect your career or the quality of life with your friends and family?
It’s our choice to make and we live in a country that allows us to choose. I think we should fully take advantage of what is available to us. We are human beings, we make mistakes and those mistakes can become the seeds of greatness. Thus, it’s okay to ask for help. In fact it takes a lot of courage to do so. But, if we walk through our issues, we’ll find that the journey to the other side was not as tough as we originally thought. Go for it, get out of your comfort zone and enjoy the fruits of life. After all, you deserve it.
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