Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Intersection

Tonight I saw a man wandering aimlessly through a busy intersection. He was wearing filthy gray sweatpants and a weathered t-shirt, no shoes, and the thousand-mile stare of someone in severe psychological and emotional peril. He had nowhere to go, no idea where he was going and presumably no one to go to.

There was a time not long ago when I would have scowled at such a pathetic character, sneering him off as a nuisance impeding the flow of traffic and getting in the way of my very, very important life. I had no time for compassion; I would have forgotten him by the time I reached the next intersection and never thought of him again. But that is not the case any longer.

Almost six years ago, the advertising agency for which I worked succumbed to the dot-bomb. I had an infant son, a mortgage and a suddenly very fragile belief in myself. I spent the better part of 2000 trying to find gainful employment again, but to no avail. Eventually, the stress and pressure swallowed me up and I was diagnosed with clinical depression. There is no greater blow to one’s ego, no faster ride to the bottom than the moment someone tells you you have a mental health problem and hands you a prescription for Zoloft.

I remember the fear. I had no idea what depression meant. I assumed I was a pussy, that I was somehow deficient or unprepared. I was mortified, and I held my diagnosis close to the vest. I didn’t need the judgmental people I knew holding this against me, believing (as I did) that depression was merely a window into a deeper, more compromising imperfection in my brain or my character or my ability to function any longer in the real world. Would the pitfalls and disappointments of everyday life present challenges I was no longer fit to confront? Would I freak out? Could people see it on my face? It was uncharted territory for all of us and none of us had any answers.

There were times during my depression when I genuinely feared that I would spend the rest of my days in a psych ward (although I have never seen the inside of one and according to virtually every analysis I heard, my case was mild). I feared that I wouldn’t be able to watch my child grow up. I feared that my wife would be relegated to raising our child by herself. And I feared that I would end up like the man I saw hobbling through the intersection tonight --- alone, adrift, oblivious. Those feelings and nightmares were worse than any physical symptom.

But I was fortunate. I had health insurance. I had a home. I had money to pay for the drugs I needed. I had a child who gave me reason to persevere through the sadness and lethargy and the lowest lows I have ever known. I had a wife who gracefully juggled the very ominous trifecta of raising an infant son, bringing in money to pay the bills and nursing me back to good health. I don’t know how she did it and I have never found the words to adequately articulate my gratitude to her for that. I don’t know that I ever will.

I ultimately found my way back to normal (whatever that means), got a job and started rebuilding myself brick by brick. Then at about this time last year, it happened again. And again I found the same motivations to chug through the exhausting task of recovery --- my wife and my children and, to a certain extent, the weak-bladdered dog who inspires me to go to work each day so I can afford to replace the shag carpet she stains with her caustic urine.

Tonight, not two hours after I saw the man in the intersection, I saw my wife holding our baby daughter in her arms, singing her a lullaby. I watched my daughter’s eyes grow heavy as she fought sleep. It was the kind of moment that affirms one’s decision to persevere through the hard times. It was the kind of moment that erases from memory the dirty diapers and the vomit that looks and smells like blueberry yogurt and watching the same Barney video so many times that you find yourself humming “Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, Please Shine Down On Me” to yourself in the shower.

Still, I believe there is not such a drastic difference between the man in the intersection and the man at this keyboard. A lucky break here and there perhaps.

16 Comments:

At 11:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, thanks for writing about male depression so openly and to pointing to a way out of it. I read your entry to my sweetheart who is currently struggling with many of the same issues that you raise (unemployment, depression, therapy, self-esteem etc.). He was amazed to learn that there are "others" out there, and that it's indeed possible to find that lucky break for which he is still searching.

The Grammarqueen

 
At 5:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I usually come here looking for your latest funny story or outlook on life. But this post, while serious, really struck me. I guess what I am getting at, is that it is nice to see different facets and depths of people. I think I am drawn to stories where a person is able to overcome a difficult time in his life. In your case, I also really appreciate your recognition of how your wife held it together, and your humbleness regarding how it could've been you out there at the intersection.

Thank you for sharing this.

-Danielle
danielleblog.com

 
At 6:40 AM, Blogger LadyBug said...

Wow. That was very powerful and moving. Thanks for sharing your story.

God bless,
LadyBug

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Beautiful and heartfelt post on a topic that is very difficult. Thank you for writing it, for sharing it with us.

 
At 7:16 AM, Blogger Closet Metro said...

For an entirely new set of reasons, you truly rock. Thank you for sharing (and screw you for making me get misty, dammit!) in a way that helps me understand the experience of so many of my friends who've struggled with depression.

Bless you.

Dave

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger honestyrain said...

my husband went through something very similar in 2001. it is harder for men to understand depression and to seek help. i'm happy that you did and proud of you for having the courage to talk about it here. you are making a difference for other men. perhaps someone reading this has been made to feel less foolish about needing help. it takes a strong man to speak so openly about your depression. there had to have been moments where you second guessed clicking that post button. i'm glad you did it.

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger alyssa j said...

As I type this my twins are listening to that exact Barney song on tv right now. It is quite catchy.

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger Natsu said...

Hi there,

Thank you for being so honest and letting us see the other side of Mr. Evans. I, like some of your other groupies, love to check out you comments because they make me laugh. But, entries like this make you even more likable. HotWife, hold on tight! You got one of the few good ones.

Thanks!
Natsu

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Lorrian said...

Wow. Thank you for this entry. I stop by daily for a chuckle - and then you write this one. I agree - HotWife has one of the good ones.

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger Colleen said...

When I did my semester of psychiatric nursing, we spent time in an involuntary ward. I was truly frightened that someone would discover that perhaps I should not be let out at the end of the day. Sometimes very little separates "us" from "them".
Life experience is wacky, isn't it? The beauty of that moment when your wife was singing to your daughter was brought more sharply into focus for you.
I like you have had very low moments and I find I have a profound reverence for life now.
OK, I'll shut up now. Thanks for a very moving post.

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger Rootietoot said...

I was diagnosed manic-depressive in 1993. I know the feeling of having that pride-of-mind suddenly yanked away and replaced with a perceived stigma. I've also learned you get over it if you want to. There is nothing like a bit of humiliation to make you appreciate what you really have. Congrates on a good family.

 
At 9:17 PM, Blogger Shira said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 10:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautifully put. I know when I was diagnosed with depression, I agreed to go to therapy but I initially refused to go on medication. It was that inadequate feeling of, "well, I can do it myself, I don't need drugs". But I eventually changed my mind and have been better for it. Bravo to you and the gorgeous love of your family. ((amy))

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger mindthetrap said...

Nice post

 
At 7:47 PM, Blogger Adam James Smith said...

Thank-you! You have made my day, my week, and my year. We're not alone and the minute we think we are we're in a lot of trouble. Depression is simply a state of mind that you have created for yourself. If there is a way down all mathmatical logic would suggest there is a way up.

Extra to that: Top skills in the words department

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger What Ever Dude said...

few actually see that they have married a friend, Brian

 

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