Thursday, May 29, 2014

SAHD: Seeking Assistance for Help with Depression

(TRIGGER WARNINGS: this post will discuss some of my ongoing struggles with depression and anxiety. And this isn't the first time I've ever written on the topic; for further review, check out my post "A Wounded Healer" at Devotional Diva.)

2014 is shaping up to be an utterly craptastic year, potentially the worst one I've ever lived through; but then again, I still have seven months to make it until I can write this year off. It seems as if one thing after another in life has intentionally and purposefully been focused on chipping away at me since January got here:

The death of my mom.
The subsequent dealing with everything that surrounded and surrounds making sure the house is in order, physically and emotionally.

Chip, chip.

The car wreck I had.
The now ├╝ber-heightened sense of quadruple-checking everything when I drive with the boys in the car.
The aftermath of back and neck pain.

Chip, chip.

The loss of one of my favorite, not to mention paying, writing outlets.
The disillusionment of me as a writer due to the shortcomings of the person who represented (past tense) me.
The questions I raise internally of does it even matter if I ever write anything again.
The apathy I feel when I look at my notebook, wishing to feel again the joy of what it was like to craft something - even if it mattered only to me.

Chip, chip.

The consistent sense of isolation as a stay at home dad.
The painful realization of an all but absolute absence of in-person social interactions on a daily/weekly basis.

Chip, chip.

The fact that every form of media that I once found some kind of joy in - from reading and television to my CD collection - now felt dull and lifeless.
The fact that I wanted to - and even started to - get rid of and purge myself of collections I had spent a lifetime putting together.

Chip, chip.

Sleep deprivation.
My future prospects for employment.

Chip, chip.

It's often said that we only see about ten percent of an iceberg when we view it bobbing above the ocean, that the majority of it stays submerged under the water. If that's the case with our personalities and who we are on the surface as a person - I feel like I've been whittled down to an ice cube. These repeated chips at the Sonny people see (if anyone sees me, that is) have taken a drastic toll on my self-image, sense of self-worth, and feelings like I matter at all.

Chip, chip.

Compounding matters is the fact that I'm a stay at home parent. It's not fair to my kids for me to be all introspective and moody. It's psychologically healthy for my oldest to see that daddy can have feelings and that it's alright to be sad and cry at times, such as with the loss of my mom and every unresolved feeling about my dad's death that still lingers half a decade later.

Yet as I am reminded by what I read online: I have the greatest job and responsibility ever. I am shaping lives, grounding emotionally, and role modeling for two kids who will be influenced by me as their dad far more than I can imagine. The simple fact that in five years' time I have probably spent more face time with my oldest child than my own dad did with me in 38 years should be both heartening and encouraging. The fact that I get to watch my youngest's eyes explode with delight at the wonder of the world unfolding to him should be enough to make my heart soar.

And yet. And because this didn't fulfill my every aspect of being like I was told it should? And the fact I feel guilt over wanting more and guilt over not feeling fulfilled?

Chip. Chip. Chip. Chip. Chip.

When Ashley and I get to have a date night where we can spend the time in intelligent conversation - although honestly, the fact that we're not interrupted mid-sentence every time we speak is spectacular enough - and she gets to share with me what's going on in work, what she's doing, what she's hoping to accomplish, and what she wants to do in the future, it's wonderful. When it comes my turn to speak, and all that comes to mind surrounds laundry, walking the neighborhood with the boys, or something else utterly trivial and I am left with a void about the future, anything even adult in nature to talk about, or me, my personality, or my life?

Chip. Dynamite. Repeat.

Compounding matters is my sex, and that as a guy, there are gender roles society expects me to uphold. Not that I have really ever given a damn about said rules, but there remains something deeply imbedded that says as a guy, I don't share my feelings. I should barely even have feelings to emote about, and if they exist, they deserve to remain with the other 90% of the iceberg, so pack them down.

Compounding matters is my faith, and God literally knows the absolute polar extremes that people of faith run the gamut on when it comes to dealing with emotions: pray; pray harder; seek a Christian counselor; God wants us to be happy; this is just a spiritual attack; pray harder still; find your answers in the Bible; get over it; Christians shouldn't be depressed; pray harder again; the joy of the Lord is my strength; pray harder; and on and on.

Chip, chip.

The thing is, this has been building. For a while now. Back in September, I asked Ashley to help me research how to find a therapist in town to speak with. And yes, you may infer how long I put off actually finding someone to speak with by the fact that I am just now writing about this in May of the following year.

I've been tense.
My temper has had a hair trigger.
I've wondered if it would matter if I was even here.
I've wondered if anyone would care.
I've wondered if my kids would care.
I've wondered if I mattered.
At all.

For months.

This isn't the first time I've struggled with depression. This isn't the first time I've seen a therapist. This isn't the first time these emotions have surfaced. To be honest, this has been a lifelong struggle in many ways for me. And as I dig into my past, facing emotions and memories long thought gone, I'm realizing exactly how far back these thoughts extend.

But for now, I'm slowly starting to feel like me again. I'm slowly starting to remember what Sonny feels like. I'm slowly starting to find joy.

Not every day. Some days are better than others. But the good is starting to outweigh the bad.

I'm not on antidepressants (yet). I'm not done with seeing a counselor (yet). I'm not done dragging the submerged parts of this iceberg I have willfully sunk up and out into the daylight (yet).

But I'm trying.

And I hope to have the strength to keep on trying.

For me as much as for my family. 

Chip, chip.

This time, the chipping does not represent being whittling away; instead, let the chipping noise stand for the sound of what it is like to scale this mountain, as the pick I carry helps me to gain a foothold. 


Sara said...

Sonny, I'm so sorry you're going through this. Depression is terrible. Any Christian culture that say to just pray it away, or that you can feel better by just trying harder and having more faith is not just wrong -- it's dangerous. We wouldn't tell a person with a broken leg to pray harder; we tell him to get medical attention. This double standard when it comes to mental health is wrong.

I'm glad you're beginning to feel like yourself, and I hope you find a good therapist, Christian or otherwise.

I don't know if you've seen this, or if you might find it helpful, but Hyperbole and a Half did a comic of her own experiences with depression. There's some cursing, but it's honest and (I think) powerful:

Patricia J Masterson said...

universal words for some of the best of us, my dear friend. you are not alone in these thoughts, feelings amd phases, and I, along with others i'm sure, now feel less so. thank for the words and honesty. those things matter in the world, as do you. much love.

Johnny T (That's ME!) said...

Bravo, first and foremost, for putting this out there. I don't think it gets done enough. Too much silence surrounds mental health, especially with men. It's not that I find it brave to write about such things as much as necessary and welcomed.

As someone who has battled depression since his early teens, I can feel your feelings on a lot of these things. Especially the part about being an at-home dad and how still, it doesn't seem to be fulfilling like it is said it should be. The lack of real, physical social interaction.

The important thing: You recognize the need for help and are doing something about it. No shame in that whatsoever. Getting help when you need it is what I consider brave and bold. I applaud your recognition of that need and wish you the best of luck moving forward.

You are not alone. You are one of many. One of us. One of humanity.

Whitney M said...

I always enjoy reading your blog posts, even the tough ones. I don't necessarily relate to them from the stay at home dad perspective since I'm neither a parent nor a man, but I always relate to them from the human perspective. You do such a wonderful job of understanding and expressing yourself, which from the very little I understand about depression is a challenge all in itself. It may seem like sharing these parts of yourself will continue to chip you away, but I hope you find that it builds you back up instead.

T. J. Luschen said...

Wow, sounds a lot like me a couple years ago. I know when I felt similar thoughts back then, really the same thoughts I had been thinking since age 12 - thirty years of mild to moderate depression! - I did not want advice and was sure that nothing could possibly help and this was just the way things are and the way they will be forever. But i got convinced to go to a therapist by my wife, started taking Prozac, which did not work, then started taking Wellbutrin, which really worked well, and did some cognitive therapy, mainly reading a book called "The Feeling Good Handbook" - I know, stupidist title in history, but amazing book - the author really knows exactly what depressed people are thinking. Anyway, good luck to you - things can be better!

Natalie Trust said...

Thank you for your vulnerability in this piece, Sonny. I found healing in your words.

Bethany Suckrow said...

I know these last few months have been incredibly difficult, friend. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you are a good man, a good husband & father, a good son & brother, a good friend. I'm so proud of you for putting your heart out here for us, instead of holding it all in. Sending you & the fam all of my love.

Katie Axelson said...

Awe, Sonny, thank you for writing this honest, vulnerable piece. I miss you--more in the literal since than you miss yourself--and I hope that your easy-coming laughter and smile come back soon. TAG?!

Chris Tilley said...

It has been a while since I have been on you site but this popped up in my Daily SAHD-ness paper. First of all I will be praying for you and I do understand the part about faith. The just pray harder and when that doesn't work the whispers that start. I've seen it. I really like my current parish. It is a great fit for us.

This post hit me between the eyes. I can say that everything in you list that starts with 'I've been tense' I could say about times in my life and some right now. I've been undergoing a period of self reflection in my life these last few months. It is tough to look in those dark caves of my psyche.

Sarah Shotts said...

I'm starting a group of MUW bloggers and was sent your link. If you'd like to be involved and connect with other MUW alums through blogging shoot me an email at sarahdshotts[at]