I used to hide it better
"Are you doing ok”, “I’m concerned about you” are phrases I hear today in my life. Sometimes it provides comfort, sometimes it makes me think “I used to hide it better”
I remember growing up as a child, I grew up in a family that was loving and they were there for me, but I always hid the feelings that I felt growing up, that I later learned was depression. My family didn’t know; I hid it better.
I remember my teenage years, coming home crying, wondering why I was alive, what is the purpose, why did I feel the way I did. But my teachers, my friends, they never knew; I hid it better.
I remember being active in church youth group and trying to reach out and help others. But at the same time, wondering why I am alive and wondering if my family wouldn't be better off if I was gone. The other teens, church members and the pastor, well they didn’t have a clue; I hid it better.
I joined the Marine Corps, went to and graduated boot camp, extremely proud, but I still felt like I had no place in this world for me, that I didn’t fit in, and that I shouldn’t be here. But my fellow marines, they didn’t know; I hid it better.
I had my first child, I loved him so much, I thought for sure, this would help me feel better, I had a purpose, but that wasn’t the case, the depression was still there, telling me that my son would be better off without me, that I would fail him. I wanted to die, my family, my wife, my fellow marines didn’t have a clue; I hid it better.
Then in 1993, I lost my brother he was 17, I was 19. I missed him, I loved him and on one level I was jealous wondering why couldn't it have been me. An accident, my family would be better off. My wife, my family had no idea what I was thinking; I hid it better.
After my suicide attempt, I didn’t tell anyone, I continued to struggle with my thoughts of suicide, not wanting to die, but sad so much of the time. I remember teaching clients about the dangers of living behind a mask and thinking, my whole life is a mask. My family, friends, and co-workers didn’t know; I hid it better.
Fast forward to my life now, I have three children and two bonus children that mean the world to me, a job I love, family I love, friends I love, advocacy work I love, and I still have depression that I hate; what has changed. When I am having a tough time, my family and my friends ask me if I’m ok. They ask me what is wrong and they tell me they are concerned. Sometimes this makes me feel good, that people notice, other times, I get frustrated, because hiding was much easier at times.
But why the change; because I have chosen to let those closest to me know what to look for, what behaviors, what to know about me, so they can intervene. Why do this, because even though hiding the feelings is sometimes easier, it doesn’t fit into my plan of being open and honest about my mental health; it doesn’t fit into my plan for my family, friends, clients or anyone in general to be able to be open and honest about their mental health. I want my family and friends to tell me when they hurt, so don’t I owe them the same. This different approach has been a life changer. Yes I still have depression, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes I even have thoughts of suicide, but I am continually growing stronger, more mentally healthy; I know I don’t have to act on these thoughts. I have more good days than bad days, and I know it is because I no longer hide my feelings; I don’t try to wear a mask. I have accepted that depression sucks, but it doesn’t have to be a game ender. I am so glad I took the steps to stop hiding.
I used to hide it better ….. What was I thinking?