Many men wear a mask.
Not physically, like a superhero, but a metaphorical one that disguises who are you and what you feel.
I wore one for a few years, back in 2013, and the mask became a part of me.
I took it off at home to down drink and behave manically, but when I dared to venture out, the mask was donned.
Clinical depression got me like that – I had little inclination to venture out and when I did, I put on the mask of normality. I wasn’t normal of course – but I pretended I was.
If someone asked “Are you ok?” I’d reply phatically, “Yes fine” from behind the mask, when what I wanted to say and should have said is “No I feel shit. I’m depressed, riddled with anxiety and suicidal thoughts, and recovering from PTSD.”
“Yes fine” was easier though as to admit mental health issues even five years ago was not the done thing.
Being depressed shouldn’t stop you from taking off that mask and telling people how you feel.
Depression is not a sore throat, a cold, a fractured leg, it sits much deeper and is more pervasive and damaging to you and others.
My depression lasted from 2013 to 2016, four years of somnambulant inertia; four years of feeling worthless, guilty, and wondering if there was any end in sight.
Lying in bed, not getting dressed or showered, losing all interest in everything and just indulging in destructive behaviours like getting pissed nightly and wearing beer googles as a mask.
Depression is like that: debilitating.
I’m out of it now though and don’t think the black dog of depression will hold me again.
I do certain things, I make choices now, better decisions and these are (in no particular order):
- Staying sober (for life)
- Exercising daily
- Adopting a rescue dog (dogs are great for mental health)
- Leaving education behind, as a teacher (fucking awful job – the leaders, not the kids)
- Choosing to look forward not backward at recent events that traumatised me.
I know there’s no magic wand, there’s no catch all cure for depression and anxiety.
But I do know, you can heal yourself.
It takes time, it takes willpower, it means consigning the past to the past, as well as removing that mask and telling people how you feel.
I’ve gone from a pissed up car crash of a man to a successful and happy freelancer and family man.
I don’t wear a mask any more.
You can see what I am now: happy.
Feel free too to share your stories with us, knowing we won’t reveal the man behind the mask, unless you want us to.