Do you struggle with depression? I was sitting in a sterile office with my wife and kids as some stranger was analyzing my blood and this is the question he asked. My gut response was to swallow the lump that suddenly appeared in my throat and say “No. No, I don’t struggle with depression,” rather than admit the truth before my wife and boys.
Instead, I swallowed my pride and with my heart beating in my ears, admitted that I struggle with depression. Oddly, I wasn’t met with scorn or rejection and the world didn’t fall apart when I spoke the truth. My boys didn’t suddenly think less of me and, if I’m being honest, it really wasn’t a surprise to Sarah.
So why was it so hard to admit that depression was a struggle? I didn’t want to be seen as weak or dare I say, unstable. I didn’t want it to impact my relationships with those around me.
I’ve always been pretty even keel. I don’t have an extreme visible range of emotions. I’m not known for displaying high levels of exuberance when I’m excited or for flying off the handle when I am angry and I definitely don’t talk to others about being depressed.
Why not? Have you ever felt like you had to wear a mask in order to be perceived a certain way? You wear one mask with your friends. Another mask at your church and so on.
By admitting I struggle with depression, it felt like I was admitting that I was “less than.” Somehow in my personal life, I equated depression with not being strong enough mentally or physically. More importantly, I equated it to not being strong enough spiritually or having enough faith.
Isn’t that ridiculous? Of all the foolish notions, I don’t even apply the same standard to others when I see them struggling emotionally. In fact, it grieves my heart to hear of individuals who didn’t open up or get help when they needed it.
Sadly, I think many of us are stuck in this game of wearing a mask. Not everyone is trying to hide depression. It might be worries over a child who is struggling with a disability. It might be a marriage that is in shambles or an addiction of some type. We’re afraid of what will happen when we are real about where we are at.
Do you know what happened when I answered this man’s question? He said, “Okay, that fits. Let’s look at your adrenals.” He helped me look for an answer and came alongside me. What if I had buried the truth? My overall health would have suffered as a result.
As parents of children who are impacted by additional needs, we often neglect our own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Are there areas that you are burying? Who can you find that will allow you to safely take your mask off so you can begin to experience healing?
Jonathan McGuire is the co-founder of Hope Anew, a nonprofit that comes alongside the parents of children with additional needs on spiritual and emotional level. You can follow Hope Anew on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/hopeinthetrenches/.