My earliest clear memory of elementary, school, kindergarten, is of being ignored and friendless. I didn’t know why that was. It just was. I walked the playground alone. I doubt I could have named half the members of my class. We all have a self-image that tells us who we are and how to act. My self-image was of a nobody. The round peg looking about for a sense of belonging and finding nothing but square holes.
I am no stranger to depression. Many young children have an imaginary friend. Mine was the Angel of Death. A cute girl my age with long red hair, pale skin, and freckles.
From about age ten to twenty-two, hardly a day went by when I didn’t at least think of suicide. The burden of Asperger’s, ADD, depression, critical parents, and a sense that I was ultimately unlovable was too great. I thought about driving into bridge abutments. I sat in a 9th-floor window fantasizing about slipping off. Kept a lethal collection of Mom’s pain meds on hand, just in case I couldn’t handle life anymore, to be washed down with dad’s secret stash of booze.
We had rifles in the house but it never occurred to me to shoot myself.
At the age of 22 I moved to California and never looked back. How I learned to cope with my depression is a different post. It is still never far away. But I have made friends with my demons and quirks and learned to let go of the past. That’s what made the difference.
Depression is just as much a male problem as female. We get really good at denying and hiding it. It is why women attempt suicide more often but men succeed more. Failed attempts are often really “cries for help.” Men are much less likely to cry out for help. They are more determined to die.
Being a straight male, that’s what I am an expert on.
A man can’t act depressed or it cuts off all kinds of life possibilities. By saying you are depressed you ruin your image of masculine confidence and situational control. Real men don’t get depressed. And if they do, they shake it off. Real men tough their way thru it without letting it show. (This attitude is especially toxic for those with PTSD.)
If an ordinary man publicly shows his depression, now he’s become an easy mark for those who can push his buttons – and just looks like another self-absorbed “emo” twit to everyone else. He’s seen as weak, defective – and maybe a bit frightening.
Nobody wants to hang out with Hamlet – but if he can just project an image of Lancelot, he can still be cool. Seeking help would confirm his own “failure”, so he doesn’t.
It is that ability to continue to project Lancelot (Or perhaps Xena for the ladies?) that makes you “high functioning.” Most people are pretty shallow creatures to start with. Many social and business decisions are based on first impressions. It is what you project that wins fair-weather friends and influences people, not who you are.
If you want to achieve in this world it is desperately important that you keep that facade up. You can cry when you are alone. Or drink yourself into a stupor. The next person you meet might be the opportunity you’re looking for. The person who grew to know you as a strong and confident warrior might just re-evaluate you. Depression comes with its own closet.
No woman wants to sleep with an obviously depressed man. That’s a very important consideration for me.
But… Depression denied is depression perpetuated. And depression exacerbated.