Tag Archives: Depression

Hello, Darkness

In the world of social media, everyone appears to live in a happy, carefree place.

But do we really?

Is it more the reality that, as Henry David Thoreau once observed, that “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

I wrote the following as a snapshot of some of the struggles that I — and I think many guys — confront at a certain age:

The Irish, according to my wife, have an expression that goes like this: “It’s a grand life, if you don’t weaken.”

It captures some of the dark humor of a society that endured famine, discrimination and all kinds of hard times.

But it also embodies something else I have been thinking about: Does life ever get easier?

Think about it: When you were an infant, someone fed you, you napped when you want and crapped your pants at your leisure.

As a child, you got to play pretty much all day and had your meals and laundry done for you.

Chores, responsibilities, careers, paying bills, parenthood, confronting aging and your own mortality, all of that nonsense that is part of adulthood can really rob you of the joy of life.

There is a scene from the British television comedy “Fawlty Towers,” where the protagonist and henpecked husband Basil Fawlty, played with such comedic brilliance by John Cleese, has this piece of dialogue with his wife, Sybil, played by Prunella Scales:

Basil Fawlty: [putting an arm around Sybil] Seriously, Sybil, do you remember, when we were first manacled together, we used to laugh quite a lot?

Sybil Fawlty: [she pushes him off and exits] Yes, but not at the same time, Basil.

Basil Fawlty: [to himself] Ah, that’s true. That was a warning all right, I guess? Should have spotted that, shouldn’t I? Zhoom! What was that? That was your life, Mate! Oh, that was quick. Do I get another? Sorry, Mate. That’s your lot.

I find myself at 53 having more and more of these kinds of introspective thoughts — more questions really.

Is that all there is?

Is this what life is supposed to be about?

One endless clawing your way from one day to the next, trying to survive and maybe scratching your way forward in increments?

Can I still find my passion in my profession, one that I’ve dedicated more than 30 years to?

Yes, I’ve been blessed with good health, a loving family and friends and a rewarding career but when I look forward 20 years, I am not sure I can have a lot of confidence in my future quality of life.

Maybe some of these dark thoughts are fueled by corrosive world developments: a rogue state with growing missile capabilities led by an erratic and unpredictable leader, dire forecasts of how climate change will affect a sustainable future and an evolving economy in which job insecurity feels more like the rule than the exception.

It seems cruel to me that at the time you can most enjoy your life — after you retire (although who knows what that will look like) — you will likely be on a fixed income and unless you have taken care of yourself, your health might be too iffy to do many of the things that might enrich your life.

Is it really the case that as the saying goes “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”

I sure hope not.



How I Dealt with My Depression

“Manopause” and Having a Midlife Crisis

How Antidepressants Changed My Life

Back at Christmastime, I had a chance to play “Pie Face” with two of my nephews.

The game borrows a concept from other games of my childhood like “Don’t Break the Ice” and “Don’t Spill the Beans.”

If you are not familiar with “Pie Face,” here is how it works:

You stick your face into an oval cardboard cutout and rest your chin on a plastic stand. Facing you is a plastic hand that can hold a glob of whipped cream.

On either side of your face are two knobs that you crank.

You turn the knobs a designated number of times depending on what number comes up on a spinner.

With each turn of the knob, the catapult of cream may or may not be released into your kisser. It’s like Russian Roulette but without the potentially fatal consequences.

Playing the game struck me as a good metaphor for coping with anxiety and depression.

Before you accuse of me of being a party pooper for equating a kids’ game with mental illnesses, hear me out.

Anxiety, like the game, fills you with a certain dread of anticipation, a rising sense that with every crank (or turn in life) something bad could happen.

More than a year ago I wrote of my trials with depression and after having thought I had it “under control,” found myself in a trough of it starting in December.

Maybe it was the buildup to the holidays.

Maybe because it was the start of the darker days, with less sunlight.

Maybe it was because I was overextended on a project for work.

Whatever the cause(s), my wife saw signs of my disconnect from the world.

I cannot speak for others, but when I am like this, everything is turned inward and I’m fixated on my “gottas” and “shouldas.”

It reaches a point where I am not easily accessible to others.

My wife had to “knock” to make sure I was still around.

Which brings me to my doctor’s visit:

I finally resolved to get some kind of pharmaceutical treatment because December, right up to Christmas Day, was just a bouillabaisse of darkness and anxiety.

For 15 years (at least) I had been trying to beat this on my own. I figured through regular exercise and just powering through it that it would subside.

All of December proved me wrong.


I have never tried mood-altering drugs of any kind. While I am quick to applaud those who have sought medical treatment, I was reluctant to seek “better living through chemistry.”

But I am glad that I did. From the very first dose, I could feel an immediate difference. I also attended regular talk therapy sessions.

It has been several months since I started the drugs, and I feel like the medicine, a low dosage antidepressant, has “evened” me out.

I am not prone to anxious thoughts and feel more clear-headed.

For those of you who seem to be enveloped in sadness, or feel on the brink of crying often or who cannot find joy in things that have in the past brought you happiness, go to your doctor.

Get help. Seriously. You will be glad you did.

Related link:

How I Dealt with My Depression

How I Dealt with My Depression

“Are you feeling depressed?” the nurse asked.

She was taking my vitals before the doctor came into the examination room and was working her way through a checklist of questions. This one happened to be about a check-up from the neck up.

Well, as a matter of fact, funny you should ask, I told her.

Her simple question was like a key turning in a lock and opening a door.

For a few months leading up to that visit for my annual physical, I had been feeling overwhelmed by work, frightened — nay, panicked — over my future employment and overall just not feeling much happiness.

This was January 2014 and the Christmas holidays that had just concluded were shrouded in a heavy curtain of gray for me.

What followed was a series of questions from the doctor. Now, as part of their routine for check-ups, the office was including a screening for depression.

So glad they did.

The doctor, who wanted me to follow up with her in a few months, was adamant that I go see a professional for help. So I did.

Here’s the thing about depression: It sneaks up on you like the onset of a bad cold but before you know it, you have pneumonia.

You convince yourself you’re just tired. Or stressed. Or not eating right.

And certainly all of those are symptoms of an underlying problem and can contribute to the bigger issue, but at some point, you reach a tipping point where you are trying to climb out of a well, the sides of which are coated with slippery moss.

Much was written about depression following the heart-breaking suicide of one of my beloved comedians and actors, Robin Williams. One of the best pieces I read was by a former colleague at the Pocono Record.

Here is what Howard Frank said in a column:

“The pain from depression is like the grief of first learning you’ve lost someone close to you. There’s shock, horror, confusion, and inconsolable sadness.

Now, imagine waking up with that grief every morning as if it were fresh news. Then imagine reliving the news all day. Go to sleep, and it’s Groundhog Day.”

It’s an apt description. And one that I fear is all too commonly experienced by many, including people close to me.

The problem with men (OK, just ONE of many problems with us guys) is that when it comes to our own care, we think we can just tough it out. (“It’s just a flesh wound!”) 

For issues that are not manifestly physical (such as our mental health), well there’s all kinds of excuses we can make for ignoring them.

In the end, I did see a counselor — for about eight months. Yes, it cost me time and money, but in the long run, it did me good.

And if someone as stubborn and reluctant as me can do it, what about you?