Disbelief. Total, utter disbelief. And anger. And loneliness. There are no other ways to describe what I felt upon being diagnosed with Depression. To make matters worse, my family doctor suspected I was dealing with what he called, “Double Depression.”
Just great, I said to myself. I’m twice as feeble I thought I was…twice as frail…twice the failure.
What the hell’s wrong with me? I have no reason to be depressed: I have a well-paying job with excellent benefits; a nice big home in the suburbs; a beautiful, loving family. I can’t be depressed: I’m not sad; I’m not blue; I’m not overly emotional.
If anything…I don’t feel anything. Except maybe numb. Empty. Hopeless. Lost. But those aren’t real feelings, they’re an absence of feeling, aren’t they?
Men don’t get Depression…we just don’t. We don’t wear our emotions on our sleeves, much less on our faces. We suck it up, we internalize, and we keep pushing through until we solve the problem, whatever that problem might be, right? Ever stoic in our silence.
Besides, isn’t Depression a woman’s condition, an affliction only suffered by the weaker sex?
Intellectually, I’d like to think I knew better. But I didn’t. My complete ignorance about Depression was the result of insidious cultural conditioning and social stigma. A depressed mind isn’t a rational mind.
And so at first, I refused to take medication. I was convincing myself that I wasn’t depressed, I was just burnt out. Nothing a few weeks off work, in the early summer season, couldn’t cure. The only medical care I needed would be provided by Doctor Summeroff.
I wasn’t mentally ill, just mentally fatigued. Tired to the point of exhaustion. I just needed some rest and relaxation. But I couldn’t rest…couldn’t relax. All this supposed “leisure” time on my hands, and yet I didn’t want to do anything, or see anybody. I couldn’t even put my finger on what I used to enjoy doing.
Weeks went by. I’d seen my family physician a few times more, and had started seeing a counsellor. The notion that I might be living with general anxiety as well as chronic depression was introduced. Still, I refused to go on medication.
The Silence only confirmed what Shame and Self-Stigma kept whispering to me: “You’re not sick, you’re weak. There’s no family history.”
In conversation with my parents one day, I shared my frustration with the lack of any kind of measurable progress in getting better, whatever better might be.
And that’s when the bombshell dropped. Turns out my mother had been taking “these little pills to calm [her] nerves” for well over a decade. She and some of her siblings had also been prone to bouts of depression over the years. And her mother had been briefly institutionalized and undergone electro-convulsive therapy in the 1950s, for what today would likely be diagnosed as a severe case of Postpartum Depression.
The Cone of Silence had been lifted.
The very next week, I marched into my doctor’s office and demanded a prescription.
Within two weeks, my mood manifestly climbed to what I gather would be considered a “normal” level. Not exactly a sunny disposition, but a noticeable spring in my step nonetheless. The anger, frustration, impatience, irritability and all-round bad temperament no longer as omnipresent as they once were.
If I’d had any lingering doubts about going on anti-depressants, they were quickly dispelled when my eldest, age 7 at the time, came up to me one day like a bolt out of the blue, and gave me a tremendous hug.
With a twinkle in her eye and a huge smile, she looked up at me and said: “I love the new Daddy.”