Recognizing Depression in Men for What It Really Is
Last week, the Dad Blogging community I belong to learned that one of their own had succumb to depression and ended his own life. I didn’t personally know Marc Block of Divided Dad but myself and others in the community wanted to pay respect to Marc, and bring attention to male depression, by writing posts about the topic this week.
There was a time in my life where for about six months I was in a bad place. This is a very personal story for me and one that, until now, only a few people knew. Some might say I’m making a big deal out of nothing but it’s a time I can point to in my life where I felt truly alone, scared and hopeless.
I graduated from college in Spring of 1998. I had no real idea where I was going or what I was doing. A friend of mine had moved out to Queens and asked me if i would like to move in with him and his girlfriend while I tried to find a job. This sounded like a great opportunity for me so I decided to go for it.
Where I ended up living was a dump. Not just a small apartment, or a run down apartment, but a complete dump. The previous occupants had lived there for 20 years and nothing was cleaned, removed or renovated before my friend and his girlfriend had moved in. We still had their old disgusting furniture. (Thankfully I brought my own bed with me…) I figured I would get past this.
I had a family friend say he was trying to get me a job in the Traffic department at MTV but it fell through. Another friend of mine had set me up with a job at Starbucks while I tried to get myself a “real” job. It was barely enough money to pay for my share of the apartment but it was something.
I would constantly send out resumes and never heard back. I had no prospects but I figured things would surely pan out and I would find a decent paying job with my college degree.
A few months went by and still hadn’t found a job. It was getting harder and harder to live in Queens with what I was earning at Starbucks, and I was not hearing back from any prospective employers. I was still getting by and although my circumstances were taking a toll on my attitude, things were by no means “desperate”.
Then, in October of 1998, my father died unexpectedly. I took some time off of work to go back home to take care of some of my father’s burial arrangements, Will, etc…
When I went back to Queens I was in a funk. My father had just died, I lived in a disgusting fleabag apartment and I had no prospects on a real job and I was quickly running out of money. Additionally, my eczema had been exacerbated by the stress I was under and the chemicals and acidic coffee I dealt with on a daily basis at Starbucks. All of these things were finally starting to take a toll on me.
I was miserable.
Irrational thoughts started forming. I would ride the train back and forth into Manhattan and see the homeless people and think that was going to be me. My mind started to spin on this notion. I was not going to find a job. I was going to lose my apartment. I was going to have nowhere to go and I was going to end up homeless, and crazy, in NYC. There were a few times that I cried myself to sleep thinking about this.
After a few months of subsisting on Starbucks wages and hoping I didn’t end up crazy and homeless in NYC, I finally found a “real” job. After about two months of saving money from my new job, I was able to move out of that pit in Queens and get a (clean) apartment of my own in Jersey City, N.J. (where my employer was located). I also got back together with my ex-girlfriend (now my wife). I finally broke out of my funk and life went on.
Years later, I told my mother about the thoughts that were going through my head during those last few months in Queens. I told her I thought I was going crazy because I would obsess over these thoughts of becoming homeless. I thought there was no hope for me and I had nowhere to turn. She pointed out to me that none of that would have ever happened because I had family and friends around me that would not allow that to happen.
True, I had family and friends that cared about me but that’s not the point. Depression causes irrational thinking. Those suffering from depression might not see the way out because they don’t necessarily realize that there are people that love them and care for them, regardless of how many people are reaching out to help them.
I consider myself lucky. When you are inside that depression it is hard to see past it and find a way through it. I’m thankful I got my job when I did and I was able change my surroundings and move on to a better place both physically and mentally.
Not that things have been all sunshine and rainbows since then; there are always ups and downs. That confluence of events in my life took a dark turn; one that I hope I can recognize for what it is if it even happens again. Looking back at that moment in my life, I still feel silly and embarrassed talking about it. That’s the dangerous stigma around depression in men and why I decided to write about my experience. I should not feel ashamed of this.
Read other blog posts by dad bloggers talking about male depression
Christopher Lewis – Dad of Divas: The Time is Now to Ask for Help
Jeremiah Delatycki – Krazy Dad Memoir: Do Not Go Gently into that Good Night
Ron Mattocks – Clark Kent’s Lunchbox: Dump Truck Full of Dead Babies