I would like to start this post by saying I am one of those statistics.
How long have I had depression?
Honestly, I have no idea.
At 18 when my first son was born with complications, was the first time I looked for medical help. I was prescribed some antidepressants but decided against taking them.
I wasn’t going to put something in my body that can cause constipation and diarrhoea. It’s one or the other. Anyway, I’m young I can beat this thing without any help, I’m not a weakling – I’m a man.
So throwing myself into work and exercise was the solution, or so I thought. It did work for a while but a pattern began to emerge. I’d get obsessed with a sport – running, cycling and even triathlons. Around this time I’d become frustrated at work. On the surface, these two things aren’t connected but what I was doing is searching for joy. That thing that makes me happy.
It is hard for me to distance myself from work, I have a tendency of taking criticism very personally which affected my working relationships with people. Which I now know is the start of the cycle.
So jumping forward a couple of years and I now have a lovely little girl who adores me, a decent job and a partner who manages to put up with me.
So why did I feel so empty?
Nothing, just a void.
Was I a psychopath? Had I forgotten how to love? Was I just going through the motions? Is my family actually better off without me?
These questions and many others left me staring at the ceiling or just not coming to bed. Pushing me further and further away from the people that love me. My little girl no longer adored me like she used to, my partner had given up even arguing with me about things.
I was no longer a dad, no longer a man.
I was weak and things got very close to hitting the fan. But one question stopped me in my tracks. As I sat on a country lane, traffic flying by and tears rolling down my face. I asked myself “how can I tell my little girl I love her with all heart and then abandon her?”
The realisation hit me, I can’t do this on my own. After 27 years of looking for joy, I had no idea what it was. Depression taints everything, your experiences, memories and relationships. Not in an obvious way, no, no. It’s subtle, the seeds of doubt sprout over the years and turn in to full-fledged fears.
Those fears grew slowly, so while now they are completely irrational and make no sense, at the time they were very real, very powerful and hard to ignore. So when you sit down and write “what makes me happy is…” It’s always followed by “but does it?”. Those three words make you question whether that joy was real or fake. Holding your child for the first time? Their first steps? Dada?
So how did I learn to dad again, to be a man?
Step one was listening to the doctor and taking the meds. They didn’t change who I was, although some days I do wish they were the ” happy pill”. They just let me be myself. The one without all the fear and doubt.
Step two was talking therapy, as a bloke, it is not easy to articulate the way you feel. I was and still am a grumpy daddy – it’s an ongoing joke that all dads are miserable. The reality is we have a limited range of emotions and that is ok. Once you one your mouth and say “I’m not doing great” everyone will ask why. At that point is when you start to discover how crazy the stuff that brings you down is. I have tunnel vision when it comes to emotion. If I am happy then I’m open to opportunities, if I’m sad you’ve got no chance of making headway with me.
Step three is simply keep making progress, depression won’t stop you from being a dad. It just makes it a touch harder.
After step two, I found my joy and I currently have another little one baking in the oven. The hardest part of having depression is asking for help, once you have reached out you can be a better person, a good man, and a great dad.