I have been living my life as a miserable, hopeless insomniac. Yes, I’m suffering from depression. Jack pauses, fearful Wow, I’m still here. For more than ten years, closer to twelve I think, I have known that something was wrong with me. Others noticed in that time, too, of course. Some offered well-intentioned opinions and suggestions that were quickly dismissed without a thought. If the explanation for my struggle was that I needed help, I wasn’t willing to accept it. As my father had taught me so well, a real man wouldn’t.

A little more than seven years ago, following an alcohol-related arrest, I left an inpatient treatment facility, focus on alcohol dependence, with full staff recommendations. I felt like I had a new lease on life, being free of alcoholism and all the issues that it had caused in my life. While going through that treatment process, I was brutally honest in every way, with one very big exception.

When questions were asked about my mental health, I would simply say I was fine. Lonely? No. Feelings of hopelessness? No. Loss of interest in activities or interactions with people? No. Sleep disturbances? No. I lied, over and over. It was one thing to admit that alcohol had gotten the best of me but it was entirely another to admit to the feelings I was having. The most foolish part of that entire process was that I knew alcohol made me feel better. Those negative thoughts and feelings went away when drinking, but over time it took more and more whiskey to achieve that. Eventually the drink itself led to other problems and treatment was necessary. Had I just been honest while there… but fear kept me quiet.

In recent therapy sessions, I was forced to hear those questions all over again. This time, I told the truth. What’s changed? Well, to be blunt: I am fucking sick and tired of being so fucking sick and tired. For years, many years, I have gone to bed at night and had my mind run laps for hours before falling asleep. I have lacked the motivation to even pursue positive advancements in my life, and if I did take a step in that direction it was with zero belief I could be successful. Sometimes I would have a rebound of sorts and create a plan to get things going, but run out of gas before even giving my new endeavor a chance.

I didn’t like myself, I didn’t believe in myself and I ended up resenting others and withdrawing from them. Hell, in the last year I have been so easily irritated by little things that I could snap at someone for blowing their nose. I actually did that, more than once. My insistence on being viewed as mentally sound, in control and strong actually resulted in criticizing my now ex-fiancé when she needed my support. She struggles with anxiety and depression, too, often describing feelings and exhibiting behaviors that I recognized from myself but didn’t admit to. I did not intend to hurt her, I genuinely wanted her to be well and see herself the way that I did. I just didn’t know how. I wanted to help, instead I abused.

For years I have known how hopeless my outlook was, how damaging my behaviors could be to myself and others, but did not know the cause behind any of it. I had suspicions, but being governed by fear of how that would look, I bottled it up and then drank from a different bottle to cover the wounds. Yes, after nearly six years of post-treatment sobriety, I began drinking again. I claimed I was in control but I think I knew that the alcohol was returning for the same reason it had been problematic years before.

I still don’t know the cause behind the struggles I have had for so many years, but I have no reason to doubt the diagnosis of the professionals I have been working with. In the layman terms used in our most recent conversation, my diagnosis is one of anxiety / chronic depression with major depressive episodes, with a likelihood of PTSD. The latter I was diagnosed with previously, during my inpatient treatment program. I’m not going to go into it in this post but I was frequently abused as a child, suffered trauma and developed the disorder as a result.

Through recent therapy I have been able to (hopefully) get answers to the questions I have had for far too long. Behaviors that I couldn’t understand have been given an explanation. Depression is not limited to sadness or feelings of hopelessness. The symptoms are far reaching, extensive beyond anything I ever knew until recently.

An incomplete but extensive list of common symptoms linked to depression: Anger, irritability, alcohol and drug abuse, loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, decreased interest or enjoyment in sex, insomnia, anxiety, feelings of guilt, fixation on past failures, self-blame, suicidal thoughts, unexplained back pain, hopelessness, lack of motivation, financial irresponsibility.

At one time or another, I experienced every symptom on that list and some others not shown. My most severe episodes featured almost all of them at the same time. Some have been present much more often than not for the last ten plus years. Like I said earlier, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. The help I was once afraid to even consider needing, fearful of the judgement from others or of being viewed as less than the man I thought I should be, is now the help that I sought out on my own. Medication has been prescribed and the pills are being taken. My life has been slowly improving day by day ever since I started getting out of my way and accepting the help that was available. Therapy is not a sign of weakness. Medication does not make me (or anyone else) less worthy of anything.

I have written this in several locations on this site already but I will say it again now: I’m not here to give any advice at all. I am just trying to share my story, the struggles I have had with addiction and mental health and the damage to relationships that resulted from both. Take what I share in whatever way you wish. But please, if you read things in my story that sound eerily familiar to your own life, give some consideration to the options available to you. I am okay today, accepting that I may never get back some of the things (or people) that I have lost. That acceptance does not come without an awful lot of pain. For someone that reaches help quickly, rather than taking the route that I did, much of that suffering might be prevented.