In 2006, I was fired from my job. I remember the joyful drive home -- finally, I was free from this job I had hated for four years, free to find a job I loved, one that would challenge me and inspire me. This was the best thing that could have ever happened to me!
Which was fine, until I bombed my first job interview. And the second one. And the third. I started collecting unemployment, but we were still struggling. And then, this endless cycle that seemed to go on forever: Send dozens of resumes. Wait by the phone. Get a phone call. Shave. Put on a suit. Shake hands. Talk about my weaknesses. My successes. Make up stuff. Smile! Don't forget to smile! Pretend your life doesn't depend on their decision. Shake hands again. Wait by the phone. Send dozens of resumes...
You think you know it all in your mid-30s. You think you've reached a point where nothing much can surprise you anymore. You think you know yourself, and you think you know the world around you. But nothing prepares you for depression. Nothing prepares you for that first morning you wake up and wish you could disappear, or not exist. And worse than that, nothing prepares you for the following day, when you wake up to realize you didn't just have a bad day yesterday, and that maybe this thing people talk about, this D-word, is not just something that happens to other people.
It lasted five months for me, more or less. Five months of feeling like I was a failure. Five months of feeling like I wasn't a real man, whatever that means. Five months of depression.
I didn't tell my wife, because real men don't talk about this stuff, and I wanted desperately to cling on to this self-imposed solitary confinement of despair, because I thought that if I weren't man enough to find a job, at least I could be man enough to keep my depression to myself. Hell, I didn't even tell myself what I was going through. Waking up day after day for months, wishing I could just sleep for 24 hours, and I thought it made perfect sense, and that everything would be fine once my circumstances changed. I wasn't depressed, I thought, just going through a rough patch.
Things changed eventually before I found a job. I started meditating, which made me calm, and I read The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, which, if nothing else, showed me that people have been dealing with the same problems I had been dealing with for thousands of years. And in the end, for me, that was all I needed: to be calm, and to remember I wasn't alone. Thousands of years ago, someone else had been there, pondering the same questions and overcoming the same self-doubts.
Marc Block joined the Dad Bloggers group a little after the Dad 2.0 conference in February. He told us he was excited about the new blog he was starting, Divided Dad, and he invited us to read his first post, "Being a Divided Dad." In it, he writes:
And why am I a divided dad and not a divided person, or a divided man? The answer is simple. I am a dad. And when you are a dad, that is what you are. And being a dad is way different than being a father. Being a father is a physical thing. Being a dad is emotional, mental, spiritual and any other "al" you can think of... I am not starting this blog so I can tell other dads how to be a dad. I am here to share the joys, experiences, thoughts, insights and feelings about being a dad.
I read this post Marc wrote in February, and all I could see was excitement about his future as a dad and as a writer. I didn't know Marc when I read his blog. I didn't know Marc when I read his comments and posts in the group. I didn't know Marc even though he was my friend on Facebook. I didn't know he had been suffering from depression, and I didn't know he was going to lose that fight.
Marc took his own life a week ago.
Depressed people often don't talk about depression, and this may be especially true for men. With me, even though I didn't talk to anyone, I still felt "cured" when I realized I wasn't the first person experiencing depression. With me, history may have been all the company I needed. Others may need your company.
Depressed people don't need your sympathy. What they do need is to know they're not the only ones feeling overwhelmed by the weight of it all. Depression shouldn't be a solitary confinement, but a path we travel on with our heads up, as a group.
Some of us in the Dad Bloggers group are writing about depression this week. Here are their posts. I will keep updating this list on my site if more bloggers contribute:
Krazy Dad Memoir – Do Not Go Into That Good Night
Dad of Divas – The Time Is Now To Ask For Help
Clark Kent’s Lunchbox- Dump Truck Full of Dead Babies
Canadian Dad – The Day the Darkness Crept In
Dads Who Change Diapers – When the World Goes Numb
Dad’s a Lawyer – Words From the Wife
The Daddy Files – Come Back to Me
Dads Round Table – Strategies to Fight Depression
Be a Little Weird - Recognizing Depression in Men for What It Really Is
This post originally appeared on A Blogger and a Father.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.