I don’t want to write this post. I don’t feel like doing much of anything these days. Some of the time I try to put on a mask of good humor but it’s hard. Some folks are better at masking their depression. Some can keep it up longer or be more convincing. I’m neither.
Depression has been with me almost as long as I can remember. It’s not always active, like a cancer in remission, but sometimes it’s one perceived misfortune away from rising to the surface with its claws bared. It’s also not predictable. I go long stretches feeling emotionally resilient. I say “sometimes it’s one misfortune away” because it’s not… always. Sometimes something as small as a forgetful friend can trigger it, but I’ll weather something relatively big like the death of a relative normally (not conflating sadness or mourning with depression).
Depth and persistence also vary, seemingly without relationship to the severity of the trigger. (Although I talk about the move a lot in this post, it’s only what I think of as the trigger. The depression covers many issues I’m not discussing in the hopes of keeping it simple.)
This time it’s been long and it’s been bad – the worst since I’ve been married.
It’s been about nine months since our decision to move to Orlando. Sure, it’s been a big change, but it hasn’t been the end of the world. Yet the decision haunts me. I think about it every day. It visits me in my dreams. I used to have bad dreams like this and wake up relieved it was a dream. Now I wake up relieved it was just a dream, until I come to realize it wasn’t.
Before the move, my job was almost perfect for me and I knew it.
I know I’m not perfect, but I recognize I have some skills that help me stand out. I’m above average at some things, even quite talented at others. I also recognize my shortcomings. I work at them but I’m not going to bullshit you or anyone else and pass off pseudo-weaknesses as hidden strengths. No matter how much we try, no one can turn a wart into a flower.
My job was almost perfect because it allowed me to use most of my strengths, and with a little bit of work, mask most of my weaknesses. Most important of all, I enjoyed it. At times I loved it. I was in a position to help people – lots of people. My skills put me in a unique position to help my coworkers statewide, who could then help many, many others – directly because of my efforts. (There was a time when Judges hearing domestic issues around the state sought me out for help, though the main office wasn’t overly impressed when they found out, “suggesting” I stop.) I rarely brought problems home with me from the office. Even after 18 years, I could leave at the end of the day feeling a bit of a rush.
How many people these days are lucky enough to be able to say that?
In those dreams I left my job for various reasons, only to find I’d made a big mistake – and I couldn’t go back. Now I can’t help but think those dreams came true.
The move has flipped the equation. Although I work for the same state agency and the same department (just a different location), it’s very different. Those differences tend to hide my strengths while exaggerating my weaknesses. I don’t like to use the word hate, but I’m awfully close.
Cheryl had the same problem before we moved. That’s why I agreed to it. We faced several certainties: she didn’t like her job, we didn’t make enough money to keep up with our expenses, there were no opportunities for Cheryl to move up or grow where we were, and my health did not allow me to help as much as I would have liked. Cheryl was stressed and I was depressed due to my prominent role in our problems.
Our situation before the move was not sustainable. The move would reduce our expenses while increasing our income, and give Cheryl something she’d lacked for a long time: a job she liked.
The move presented fewer uncertainties. Although I’d be giving up my “perfect job,” I’d be transferring to another office within the agency (though taking a voluntary demotion to help the transfer happen faster). I had my fears… worst case scenarios that plagued my mind, but I knew they were unlikely. I couldn’t deny Cheryl a little happiness after carrying me for so long, especially when the move could just as likely turn out well for me too.
I was sitting in my car during a lunch break in December of 2013 when Cheryl got the job offer that moved us to Orlando, and I told her I thought she should take it. My mind has replayed that moment countless times since. It was a great fall day in Florida. I had the windows open and I was lying back, just enjoying the quiet, the cool air, and the gentle breeze. It’s an unlikely setting for my life to seemingly turn upside-down.
There’s a dark corner of my soul where I blame Cheryl for the move and my depression. At night before I go to sleep, waiting for the dreams to take me back to that moment in my car, I get mad. I get mad at her for “making” us move. I get mad at myself for agreeing. I get angry with myself for making the move necessary – if not for my poor health, maybe we could have avoided some of the money problems and stayed. Then I come full circle. I remember depression was with me LONG before WE decided to move. I get mad at myself for blaming Cheryl, who has only tried her very best through it all. I don’t like to use the word hate, but I’m awfully close.
Some nights I’m much more than close.
Among my flaws is a shyness, or social awkwardness, which makes it hard for me to make friends. I left the few I have behind. Here I have none, with no prospects. I go days where depression wins and I trade no words with anyone but immediate family. Not friends, not coworkers, not my boss (a big part of my problem at work, methinks)… no one.
I’m seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist – who I must admit is the best one I’ve ever seen. (He’s the first to offer insight I hadn’t thought of myself first.) I’m living with constant pain in my neck and head, but I’m seeing a doctor I trust who’s trying a procedure I think will help on Friday.
But I scare myself at times. I don’t always discuss my deepest episodes of depression with Cheryl. I don’t want to be an anchor anymore. But when I do have a chance to talk about it, I’m not always completely honest with either my psychiatrist or my psychologist. I know what the consequences could be, and they scare me more.
I feel worthless.
I feel lost.
I feel alone.
When I think everyone is asleep at night and no one is listening, I cry.
But for the love of my wife and family, I feel like I have nothing of value.
But that isn’t nothing, is it?
Most importantly, I do not feel hopeless.
If this post seems like more of a mess than usual, it’s because I typed it all with my thumbs, on my phone, with autocorrect, at work – waiting for our network to come back up.