Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Dose of Reality

I'm going to do something that, as a guy, I'm not supposed to do. I'm going to admit that I, like many, many others, suffer from mental illness. Specifically, I deal with Chronic Depression with General Anxiety Disorder.

Let me get this out of the way right up front: I'm not making this post seeking your pity or your sympathy, nor am I doing it to try and increase my sales. Beyond that sentence, I don't intend to mention any of those topics again during this post. I AM doing it to help shine a light on it, and to let people know they're not alone if they are also dealing with it.

I can't tell you when it started. Maybe it was high school, maybe it was before, maybe it was in the years afterward. I do know that I've dealt with the symptoms for many, many years now, without ever having the guts to talk to an actual doctor about it. I was raised--as were far too many people of my generation--to believe that, as a man, I wasn't supposed to feel this way. Things weren't going right? Suck it up and deal. Feeling overwhelmed? Man up and take care of business. Fate / The World / Whatever crushing you beneath its heel? Fight it off and do what you have to do.

The reality is, sometimes none of that is possible.

The brain is, in my opinion, the most powerful organ in the human body. It can bring your to your highest heights, it can drag you to your lowest lows. Call it your conscience, your karma, your ego, or whatever you want. The truth is, it doesn't matter. All that DOES matter is that it happens, and when it does, you're helpless to stop it.

For as long as I can remember, I've felt like I just wasn't good enough. For what? Didn't matter. I didn't feel I deserved it. Even when I got married and had kids, I always wondered why I'd been given something like that, and always felt I wasn't doing enough to provide for my wife or my kids. I always felt like I didn't fit in, even if I was in a crowd of people who all felt the same way I did.

Many authors talk about "impostor syndrome", the feeling that you don't deserve the recognition and praise you get for your work. Add that in on top of everything else, and even the thing that brings me joy becomes a vehicle for my mind to use against me.

Let me tell you, that can fuck with you.

Finally, after years of remaining silent, I confided in my wife what I was feeling. If you can't do that with your spouse, who CAN you do it with, right? I was terrified. I was so certain she would think I was less of a man, less of a person. I should have known better; I realize and acknowledge that. The problem is, your brain will only let you believe what it wants you to believe. Therefore, I suffered until that night I tearfully poured my entire heart out.

Guess what? She didn't think less of me. She offered me what comfort she could and suggested I tell my doctor, to actively DO something to try and counteract it. With her encouragement, I did just that. It took a LOT of psyching up and rehearsing in my head what I was going to say, but I managed to do it. I was screaming inside the entire time, but I did it.

Thankfully, I had a doctor who took me seriously. I had a doctor who understood how hard it was for me to bring this up at all, much less discuss it in as much depth as we did. We talked about medication and counseling, and basically set out a plan of action to try and bring my issues under some kind of control.

I freely admit that I didn't completely do my part. There was a part of me that was still sure it wouldn't help, COULDN'T help. But I took the meds. I discussed the side effects that I thought were more harmful than helpful. And for a while, it worked.

Then, earlier this month, I realized that medication without commitment is basically worthless. If I wasn't willing to do whatever it took to try and bring my life and mind and soul back into balance, the medication was nothing more than a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound.

Part of that commitment, to me, is being willing to talk about the problem, for several reasons. First, if I can't admit that I have a problem, I'm only making it worse. It's no different than keeping everything bottled up and hoping it'll go away on its own. Second, it's selfish of me to not admit I have a problem. It IS personal, don't get me wrong, but I've often seen posts online from other people who suffer from depression, and they've helped me in that they showed me I wasn't alone. For me to keep it to myself might deprive someone of that same small comfort when the smallest comfort can mean so much.

That's why I'm making this post: to let anyone who needs to know that they're not alone. There are other people out there who are going through something similar. We're all fighting together, even if it doesn't always feel like it.

I'm doing other things. I'm fighting. I'm looking into finding a therapist to talk to, searching for more help than the medication can offer. I've always viewed my writing as my therapy, and it DOES help, but it's not enough. Not if I don't want this to win. I'm stronger than the disease--and make no mistake: mental illness IS a disease. It WILL NOT beat me.

My name is John Quick. I'm a husband, a father, and a writer. I also suffer from mental illness. If you do as well, know I'm right there in the trenches, fighting the good fight right beside you. It's okay to feel bad sometimes. It's okay to cry when you do. That doesn't lessen us as people, men or women. It's just an outlet to get rid of the bad stuff we keep inside sometimes. We do it, move past it, and--to quote Doctor Who's Winston Churchill--keep buggering on. We're not going to give up. Ever.

And you know what? We're going to win this fight.

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