I have been struggling with how to share what my life has been like for the past four weeks.
There are friends, relatives, and business associates that I want to tell. My dilemma is how to tell them, how much to tell them when to tell them. Is my need to tell them a way to justify my behavior? I’m telling myself it is a noble thing to do, to alert others who may have these thoughts but haven’t recognized it in themselves. Or is it a way to get people’s attention?
I have started many letters, only to trash them.
The idea of going “public” with what I have been going through is frightening. I’m reading “I don’t want to talk about it,” by Terrence Real. It is clear how there is still a stigma related to mental illnesses. But knowing that concealing it will result in future problems, is forcing me to open up.
It took me three weeks to look at LinkedIn after my hospital stay. When I finally looked, I had 32 new connections and several messages from people I did not get to meet in person when I did not speak at the conference. I was scared thinking about checking this, but happy when I finally did it.
Facebook has been a different issue. I have 99+ notifications. I used to post family pictures and other updates, plus comment on friends and families posts. I haven’t faced them yet.
I’m struggling with what to say. Do I just jump in?
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder after a stay in the hospital. It turns out I have had depression since I was 22. It runs in my family.
For the past 40 years, I have hidden depression from even myself.
Until last month, I concealed it and never called it by name, I believe that I did this very well. Having had four major events before this one, I see now that I had two major reasons for hiding the effects from myself and others.
One, my family has counted on me to be the pillar of strength. I could not have depression, too many people count on me. “I’m evergreen.”
Second, my entire professional career has been built around making good decisions, being the positive force in managing others. Concealing anything that wasn’t positive was the standard operating procedure.
Then I hit a wall.
The decision to retire early and focus on my resume writing business was made over a year ago. The effects of that are what I am dealing with now. At the time, I could not see how depression was setting me up for all or nothing thinking. It set me up so I didn’t see that I had choices.
Maybe I couldn’t have known how working from my home office would be so different from “going” to work. There, I had hundreds of small interactions each day. Some as small as “hi,” and some requiring me to put on my “officer of the company hat” to properly address. That was fun and very rewarding.
It kept my emotional gas tank filled.
Now I am figuring out how to replace that input of positive energy. Maybe some of the things I am doing now are more positive than I have decided they are. After all, one of the unhelpful thinking styles is minimalizing the positive. And I know I have used that one in the past.
Do I keep going on and on? Is this too much to share?
I can see that this is all about me. That may not be the best way to approach telling my friends, extended family, and close business associates. This approach could work backward and be TMI.
I will pull out my worksheet and see what sorts of questions I should ask myself about this plan. I know one is, Are there other things to think about? What questions do I need to ask myself to verify that this action makes sense?
Then I will take this as a rough draft of what I want to say. As Abraham Lincoln so clearly put it when he added a PS to the back of an envelope: “I apologize for the length of this note. If I had had more time, it would be shorter.” Well said, Mr. President.
Lots of good things happened today. More on that in tomorrow’s post.