Until we start talking about this subject openly and honestly we don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting or giving any help.

To be completely honest I should have quit being silent and closed off about my depression years ago. I don’t know how to explain my silence other than to say it was varying parts stigma, ego, denial, shame, machismo and awkwardness. Not much wrapped up in that is there? Here’s just a bit of my story.

I probably experienced depression for the first time in high school. I went through a period after a break up that could possibly be described as dysthymia. Don’t worry I didn’t have a clue about what it was either back then. I’ve only learned a bit more about it in the past few years. Not to oversimplify but it’s depression brought on by an event. The event can be the whole reason for the depression or just the straw that breaks the camel’s back so to speak. Whatever it was, my closest friends would tell you I moped around for a few months, head down, not a ton of fun to be around I imagine. Eventually I got back together with the girl and it passed. So that was then.

In college I experienced more bouts of depression probably tied to anxiety. Grades, my future, relationships and trying to figure things out in general left me wiped out or filled with anxiety; enough anxiety that I dealt with stomach pain so severe I saw my doctor to rule out appendicitis. The good thing, if you can call it that, was that I almost always had something to point to as the cause for my symptoms. The real bitch of a situation would come after I graduated and was married.

Not terribly far into my married years I began to deal with periods of depression that occurred for no definite reason. They might last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. These episodes would often take my mood and energy level on a reverse bell curve swing where I would feel myself falling into the shit with no way to stop the spiral. If I was lucky I’d bottom out quickly and rebound quickly. Those were the good ones. The awful ones were the ones where the curve was not steep whatsoever. I might take a week to hit bottom and a couple of weeks to feel like myself again. I still deal with these swings and I’d like to think I have figured some things out to counteract them but sometimes the condition, very bluntly, kicks my ass. And I hate losing. Over the years I’ve consulted with several doctors in an effort to beat this thing.

The first doc I saw diagnosed me as bipolar. I didn’t really agree with his diagnosis because in my assessment I was never truly manic. In my opinion any times where I felt particularly happy were often just a lifting of the cloud. Still, he prescribed me some meds and for a while they really seemed to lift my spirits to an acceptable level of happy. Hell, I even felt good at times. But, then ego or machismo or whatever you want to call it led me to stop taking my meds. I’ve been told by someone real close to me that this is classic bipolar behavior. I don’t know if it is or it isn’t but that’s what happened. The second doc I saw happened to come at a time when I was out of work. To be honest this wet fish of a human being almost completely soured me on the whole idea of getting help. The last straw was when he surmised, after multiple sessions, that maybe what I really needed “was to find a good job.” I don’t recall ever wanting to shout “YA THINK!” at someone quite so badly. I never went back. The last dude I saw about this crap was a decent human. He listened, offered a few coping ideas that (shocker) had to do with me discussing my feelings with my spouse or friends and encouraged me to keep taking the meds he had me on and keep trying to figure my condition out. I liked this guy best because he didn’t offer complete salvation in a pill or no salvation at all; he suggested maybe I might be able to do some things on my own to get through these episodes.

It’s been several years since I’ve taken meds for my depression and I’ve paid much closer attention to what sends me down the shitter (see quitting drinking). I’ve learned to accept that this is me and when I start to head down that slope into the inverted bell curve I give myself some grace and sometimes a day off to sleep. I’m still figuring things out and I’m lucky to have an understanding family and especially an understanding spouse. I wish I could explain all the facets of my condition to those that have shown me so much care and understanding over the years but to be truthful even after all these years I’m still figuring it out. I’ve developed some coping mechanisms (see quitting clutter) and thought processes to get me through but it’s a work in progress and one I don’t imagine I’ll ever finish. Quite honestly this decision to open up about my depression is the biggest one I’ve undertaken thus far but here it is.

If you or a friend of yours or a family member deals with this crap call me, text me, email me, comment on this post or send me a good old fashioned letter. I’m no doctor. All I have is 30-odd years of dealing with this son-of-a-bitch depression and I’ve just had it up to here with not saying anything about it. And it doesn’t have to be me that you talk to. I’m just a guy who’s decided to quit not saying anything and I’ll talk to you if you want. Or I can just listen because sometimes that’s all we need. My story isn’t your story or your friend’s story or your loved one’s story and I won’t blow smoke up your skirt and tell you I have answers. I don’t. All I will say is, “No more.” No more silence. This Thursday I’m quitting keeping my mouth shut. It’s the only way I or anyone else that’s been touched by depression has a chance of beating it.

Well that was a nice expletive-sprinkled tirade wasn’t it? (Not making light of it, sometimes you just have to laugh) I’m dead serious though about reaching out to me on this one. Comment below or reach me at 402-740-7393, email me at oldegiff@gmail.com or snail mail: 16516 M Street, Omaha, NE 68135.

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