Getting Real

I saved this post on July 21, 2017, which was the day after Chester Bennington (lead singer of Linkin Park) took his own life.

Sure I like Linkin Park, but they’re not my favorite band and I actually did not know the name of the lead singer until his suicide. And when I heard that news, I was saddened because it was another talented artist who made the serious decision to separate himself from the world forever. The reason I saved the video was because in it, Chester describes a huge part of what it feels like to deal with depression. I identified with the type of feelings I have battled throughout my life.

Depression is so dark and lonely that I never wanted anyone to know I felt that way, while at the same time I wished for someone to understand enough so that some of the weight would be relieved. It made me feel damaged, which then increased the feeling of sadness and loneliness. There were many many times that I wished I could not feel anything, as he said that he told his counselor.

I often wished there was something that could make me feel numb, although through much of my life I did not pursue counseling on any level. How could a stranger help me find my way out of that hole? Especially someone who I was going to pay to listen to what I viewed as complaining and a self-pity party. I wouldn’t even share that with friends, so why would I burden someone I did not even know?

Chester made this statement: You don’t have to know somebody to have an intimate experience and you don’t have to know someone to feel safe enough to talk to them.

What I think he meant is that we all know lots of people, and most of us make the effort to put our ‘best foot forward’, which does not always result in the most authentic or intimate experience in our interactions. I think he also meant that even with people we know well, it’s easy to feel like insecurities, anxieties, and sadness need to remain hidden. I know that I never wanted to bring anyone down, or to make them see me as flawed and therefore incapable in some way. When someone knows you well, they want to give advice or minimize feelings in order to improve the situation, or sometimes they end up hearing complaints and self-pity. All of that comes across as judgement and makes it hard to feel safe enough to share the thoughts that make it hard to function.

The biggest question that comes to everyone’s mind is: Why am I (Why are you) like this?

There are any number of reasons: biological, physiological, environmental, experiential. I even think that for some people, the things they eat or drink increase the experience of depression because it conflicts with their body chemistry. There is always the WHY, and yet I have learned that the why is not as important as the what: WHAT will you do about it.

Chester also mentioned “suffering is self-inflicted. Nobody can make you feel anything.”

And that is true to a large extent. Many who suffer from depression try to pin the reason for the pain on others, and I think the extreme suffering is the result of one’s own perception of responsibility… but that is also an effort to understand WHY do I feel this way. Nobody wants to feel so flawed that they have a hard time focusing on life or achieving all they want/expect or just plain feeling happy and at peace.

My greatest triumph over depression have come from learning that over time, negative thinking became like an addiction. There was a spiral of sadness, inadequacy, and anxiety that turned to anger when people on the outside confirmed the negative thoughts I had on the inside, and my major response was to get angry. Well, often my first response would tend to be drinking because it always did ‘take the edge off’, and then if the issue was pressed, my go-to response would be fear, then anger.

No matter what level I experienced, it was still organic (part of my biology) and habitual. Finally, at almost 40 years of age, I sought counseling from a licensed counselor as well as from church. Medication was recommended, and I tried one thing after the other before finding something that worked and that I felt comfortable with. It took me a while to become brave enough to try the Celebrate Recovery ministry, which began a massive change in my life. Here was a place where I could allow people to know me on a painfully intimate level AND feel safer than I had ever known that community could possibly be for someone like me.

I still feel depression sometimes – in fact the past couple of weeks have been a bit of a struggle – but for the most part I can pull myself out of it (when I recognize it). Nowhere do I feel that extreme emptiness that I knew for so long, which makes me so eager and willing to share my experience. My dream and prayer is that more people will find a path out of that darkness and live a fuller, happier life.

For more on my experience, read my post on Addiction.

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