I Don’t Want to Write This…

… but I’m going to. I am getting courage from the people in my networks who are posting about their struggles with depression and/or anxiety. I’m remembering the oh-so-slow dawning of my own understanding that what I have is a disease, not a character flaw. And I’m hoping that by struggling through writing this, someone who is reading it might be able to¬†skip some of the difficulties I had.

I have had bouts of depression since I was a child, more or less frequently over the years. I’ve been on medication for the condition for several years now, and have been in and out of talk therapy for more than two decades. I’ve learned coping strategies, red flags for when it’s coming on, and how to soldier on and function in public even through a full-blown episode.

I have rarely if ever discussed this with anyone other than my wife. So I am grateful for people whom I respect working to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses, and bring them out into the open. Thank you, especially, to Nick Provenzano and Joe Massa for bringing Project Semicolon to educators with #semicolonEDU.

I’ll be traveling on the 14th, so here’s my solidarity picture ahead of time:






What Are You Depressed About?

Well-Meaning Friend: “How are you doing?”

Me (summoning up a lot of courage): “I’m in a bout of depression, so I’m feeling pretty down.”

Well-Meaning Friend: “I’m sorry about that. What are you depressed about?”

Me: “I’m not depressed about anything. It’s a disease that produces chemical imbalances in my brain that affect my mood. In reality, I don’t have anything to be depressed about. I have a great life, family and friends who love me, financial security, good health, a fulfilling and rewarding career. That’s why depression is called a ‘mental illness’ and not a ‘perfectly reasonable response to terrible circumstances.'”

Just OK?

Me: “Hi!”

Well-meaning Colleague: “How are you?”

Me: “OK”

Well-meaning Colleague: “Just OK?”

Me (in my head): “No, not just OK. I’ve had a severe bout of depression for the last several days, and I’m just barely holding things together in public until I can get back home and collapse. My natural state is not wonderful happy perky goodness all the time, it’s neutral. Sometimes I have good days, and when people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them. Sometimes I have neutral days: nothing terrible has happened, but nothing great, either. So when someone asks, I say ‘fine’ or ‘OK’. And sometimes I have terrible days, when I just want to curl up in a ball and go away, when my brain is fighting me over every thought¬†and every action and telling me how miserable everything is. On those days, when someone asks how I am, I assume they don’t really want to know, so I stifle it and say ‘OK’ or ‘fine’ and try to quickly change the topic. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe those people really do want to know, and I should just blurt out about the dark place I’m in and how I feel completely worthless and how I can see nothing but misery, hopelessness, and frustration in the future no matter what I do. Maybe that’s what I should say. Is that what you want to hear?”

Me (out loud): “Yep, everything’s fine.”