A True Story About My Depression:
DEPRESSION: The Silent "Beast" That Stalks Us Everyday
This is not a comical story. This is not a story to make you laugh at all. This is my personal story that, until now, has never been told to anyone. Not even my closest friend or family members.
No, this isn’t a rare story that exposes a famous or political figure. No, this isn’t a story that tells all about a famous movie or television icon. I do wish it was one of these stories, so you would be halfway interested, but the fodder for my story comes from my life and I got to tell you that my life has never or shall ever be one of glamour, success, or garnered-fame that appeals to the innumerable masses.
I am not going to bore you with every intimate detail, just the highlights that hopefully, will make sense to you and I desire that this story, if it can be of help to just ONE person in the shape that I am in, then I will be happy.
First let me ask you, “What is the common thread that runs through all of the artwork of the people to the right of this story?” Have you found it yet? I won’t reveal the “silent-but-deadly monster” yet, but this “monster,” is one of the most-powerful forces known to modern man and living next door to many of you for years and you never knew it.
This “monster” or “beast,” has numerous faces, shapes, names, and voices. This “beast” is not a respecter of races--it thrives on African-Americans, white people, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, German, and many more divisions of the human race.
This “beast” has no conscience, no heart or soul. This “beast” can slowly devour a person day-by-day until finally, the person’s energy, drive, and will to live is gone. Hardcore truth is never easy to swallow. I should know first-hand about swallowing hardcore truth for I’ve done my share of swallowing the truth for over 40 years and it never gets any easier.
I was first introduced to this “monster” in 1967. At first, I didn't notice how deadly this being actually was, but as time went on, I felt it’s power and influence slowly start invading my thought processes and inner-self bit by bit and finally one day I realized that this “monster” was not one to be beaten by mortal or immortal man.
It all started, I believe, when the day that comes to all human beings met me face-to-face and denied me the pleasure of being accepted or acknowledged by any of the people that had classes with me in junior high school. That day I speak of was the day of just being a part, not the whole, of a small group of friends who I wanted to like me for who I was and not how much money, property or power that my parents had. Yes, I do believe that this was probably the first of many dark days that lie back-to-back in front of my life--causing me to believe that I was in a horrible dream of sorts.
I remember being vocally-paralyzed and couldn’t get the confidence to talk to these friends who seemed friendly enough, so I just stood silently and let these would-be allies talk among themselves as I listened. I also recall no one asking what I thought about what subjects they were discussing. I never knew it at the time, but it was defined later as being “left out,” and this, young people who are now squirming as you read this, is the first indication or introduction to the “beast” that was awaiting me just around the next corner.
I went home that evening after school and lay on my bed and dwelt on the dismal attempt I had made in making contact with this group of people in my class who I wanted for my friends. I knew right away that the trouble lie with me and my clothes, which were not name-brand, or my lack of knowledge that surely kept me from being in their circle of friends. It had to be me who was the problem.
The next day I saw the same group of kids standing in the hallway of our school during our morning break and I thought that I would try again to make contact with them and this time, be their friend. I waited until I knew what they were talking about before I tried to interject my comment. They were talking about the sport of pro football, a subject that I did know something about. At the next juncture in the conversation, I took the opportunity to share my knowledge on pro football that only met with stern looks on their faces and some clearing of throats as they swiftly changed the subject--leaving me out on the limb by myself as I endured their laughing--not at my comment, but at me.
Strike two. My next move, find a new circle of friends. Well, I do not need to tell you how that went. The same as the first circle of friends. I remember well that this sequence of trying to make friends went on for several weeks until I gave up with the knowledge that I had tried my best to gain friends and that it was their loss for not wanting me for a friend.
I tried to talk to my mom and dad about this dilemma, but they had me a bit late in their life and was not that up on how to handle the problems of young people my age, so they just put me off with a blanket explanation of, “If these are the only friends you have in school, you don’t need them,” and I was supposed to be content with that easy answer.
Okay. Now it was the end of seventh-grade. Summer vacation was coming up and this would give me the needed time to find out what I was doing wrong in my battle to make friends. I finally arrived at what might be the problem. I, along with several other kids, who had went to a farming-community school, a proverbial two-room, rural country school, were transferred to the city school system without being briefed by our rural teachers what we were to expect and how to handle rejection that these “mom and pop” teachers knew that we would face in the city school system.
From the eighth-grade in 1968 on through the eleventh-grade in 1971, it was the same carousel of going round and round--seeking friends and getting rejected as if we, the rural transfer students were supposed to be treated rudely by the city children and teachers like it was a school sport or after-school activity. After so much ridicule, I just gave up and shook hands with the “beast” who was always near when I felt rejected. At least ‘he’ was on my side even if the kids in my school were not.
I can revel the name of the “beast” now. His name is DEPRESSION. And in my day, 1971, 1972, my junior and senior year of high school--with the same high-minded and self-absorbed city students, or “jerks,” pardon my language, was now a game of personal survival as these “people,” the city students, took much pleasure in finding ways to embarrass me in front of the class, teacher included, who joined the city students in laughing at my lack of people skills because I was of rural background and not as smooth as the city students and their families. Most of the rural students who were transferred with me to this city school had now learned to stay a safe distance away from the “in crowd,” so they could make it to graduation. These rural kids learned that the least they said, the better. Me? I just wanted to be friends. That’s all. I recall that some of my wiser rural friends would try to advise me to just “leave the idea of making friends in the dust and move on.” I now wish I had listened to them.
I can now in 2011, count on my right hand, the number of REAL friends I did have in 1971 and 1972. That is the cold truth. I was not a popular teenager. Nor was I one of the smartest. I was though one that the city kids loved to harass and when it came to the junior and senior proms, the city kids saw an easy opportunity to use me and the wiser rural kids one more time. The city kids put up a convincing “front” of believable sincerity to get us to contribute our money to make “their” proms a success. I didn’t have any money to donate. Neither did my rural pals. So we were more of an outcast now than ever before.
It was like this from 1964 through 1972. The same city kids getting the school officer titles, places of honor in our class, and always appreciated by their city teacher friends. Even when I graduated in 1972, for years to come, I always wondered what the city kids and teachers had against me and people of my kind. We never asked to be transferred to the city school system. We didn't have a say in the matter. And what worked for the city kids’ advantage was we didn't know any better than to want to make new friends--giving the city kids easy ammunition for shooting our dignity and self-esteem full of holes while they laughed about it.
And I don’t wonder anymore at why depression and I have been so close over the years. Factually, I do not run from depression, no, I embrace it each day that I awake. The normal, knowing and highly-trained therapist will advise us to ignore depression if we can or even deny that it is a part of us. I don’t do that at all. I find that by standing my ground with depression that it cannot deal with the fact that I am not afraid of it as I once was as a kid in 1967 through 1970. Back then, the “beast” was bigger, meaner, and darker and I was at its mercy. If I had only knew that depression was friends with the city kids, I would have not tried as hard to be friends with them, but my parents didn't raise me to run from any fight or give up on any project that was given to me or a project that I personally had started. “The world hates quitters,” my dad would preach to me. And he could say that with ease because he had never failed that much in his life. He was a self-taught musician, a carpenter, a brick mason, a mechanic and a production machinist--all without a college degree or higher level of education. He was just that intelligent and talented.
And my mom was the same way. Talented in so many things that I would sometimes stand and watch in awe as she would whip up a literal feast for our Christmas and Thanksgivings without that much food in the pantry. And she could sew with the finest seamstresses in the county. She loved to sing the older church hymns as she did her work in the house. My mother had a beautiful voice.
But I didn't inherit any of my dad or mom’s intelligence or talents. I guess that is why I made an easy prey for depression for when I married my wife in 1975, I went another round with depression only this time it was a game called “Fitting In.”
“Fitting In,” was an adult version of the game I had played (and lost) in school called “Making Friends,” except with “Fitting In,” I wanted to fit in with the staff of the company where I was working. The entire staff and supervisor were known to drink heavy amounts of liquor. I was the one on Monday mornings at staff meetings who was never asked how his weekend went for they all knew that my wife and little daughter had spent some time at home together and went to our church on Sunday and maybe had dinner with my wife’s parents or my parents. Compared to their parties over the weekend, my life was very obscure and uneventful.
So to fit in with these staff members who I craved to be my friends, I took up the habit of drinking. A little at first and to make a long, sad story short, I fell to the dark level of almost becoming an alcoholic for just wanting to fit in. I remember well one of the staff members who saw what alcohol was doing to me, told me one time when I was drinking with them after hours, “If you don’t get a hold of your drinking, you are going to die,” and that advice came from someone holding a Jack and Coke in their hand and a cigarette in the other hand.
I laid down the alcohol in 1990 with the grace and help from My Father in Heaven, who all this time, was my dearest friend. And to this day, in 2011, I have never found the answer to what it was that I was doing wrong or what it was about me that the city kids never liked for I was not a lofty person. I couldn't be lofty or superior in intelligence because I didn't have a high IQ, so the mystery still lives in me to this day.
And I attended my twenty-year high school reunion. And the low lives that made my life miserable in high school and further back were all there showing off their designer clothes, jewelry and telling tales of how much they were worth. And after the crowd had heard their stories, they had the gall to ask me what I was doing in my life--and asking with those insincere looks and tones of voices that made my stomach turn. I recall mumbling with shame, that I was working for the local newspaper--not a job that could be compared to being a lawyer, C.P.A., RN, Teacher, Professor, and other important jobs. And I went to our thirty-five year high school reunion. Same cliques. Same story as the twenty-year reunion. Two other rural kids and I were the only three rural students that were in attendance. The rest were elite classes of people that made up our class. One of my rural buddies saw what was unfolding and whispered to me, “Some things never change.” And how correct he was. And how profound his statement was.
Now I hear that there’s talk of our fortieth-high school reunion. And one of the girls who DIDN’T try to run my rural friends and I out of town has contacted me to, as she put it in her email, “help her,” with contacting members of our high school class.
I admit it. I have contacted a few, but this project is not of my doings. I personally do not have the emotional or mental stamina or endurance to face another “panorama of pain,” so I am keeping as quiet and obscure as humanly possible. And I still don’t know how to handle my good pal, depression.
Speaking of my good pal, depression. I did catch him licking his lips and rubbing his hands together when he read my emails to the girl who asked for my help in contacting people from our class to make it to THEIR fortieth reunion. I know what my good pal, depression is thinking and planning.
Not this time, my good pal. Not this time.