In my mind, I should have said “I have depression” years ago.
And while I have done so in this blog, I have shied away from a formal announcement. One would think that after 530 blog posts, my secret would be out. But the fact that it hasn’t has more to do with “it’s not always about you,” than about my relationship with depression.
There are many groups to which I have said “I have depression.”
On Our Own comes to mind. It was because of them I learned about WRAP and SMART Recovery. I also discovered Peer Advocates. I am still grateful to have met so many supportive people through OOO. And while I have said “I have depression” in front of anyone attending a group session, I still fear saying it to those I love or to those I work with.
Not saying “I have depression” to these groups is mostly about stigma.
With only 25 or so years left to live, I cannot imagine why I am still worrying about what others think. There are many areas of my life where I am past caring what others think. But then, I see how in society, one’s job, profession, and/or career can ostracize someone for sharing their vulnerability.
“If you meet a master swordsman, do not show them your poem.”
Bearing this in mind, I have hidden my depression and presented high-functioning or concealed depression. At work, I am conscious of my brand, and how I am perceived. If I say I have depression, what happens to my identity? Does this increase my worth because I am achieving results despite my depression? Or do people slowly back away saying “I knew something wasn’t quite right?
By now, I should have enough faith in myself and my abilities, to not worry about what “they will say.”
Yet this thinking does not allow me to come clean about my depression. In work settings, I can clearly state issues I hear about, sharing them with senior management. Some of my bosses have appreciated this open, honest feedback, while others only reluctantly hear it.
I am certain there will be the same split when I admit I have depression.
Pushing me to open up about my depression are those who currently have it. Staying silent is just what depression wants me to do. Silence and secrecy are hallmark moves of my depression. It loves to make me feel as if I am the only one in the world who has ever experienced this.
Depression is relying on each of us feeling alone and isolated from the world.
It creates an “I am the only person in the world who has ever gone through this” feeling. And this increases the amount of isolation generated. Just hearing that others have gone through or are going through the same feelings, gives me hope. I am not alone is a big, big takeaway from this experience.
Why then am I afraid to make the jump to 100% disclosure?
Is it really the stigma I fear or is it something else? Am I so concerned about what people think of me that I cannot admit my depression? Is it possible I am ashamed of my depression? Or is it that I am ashamed of myself when I think of others seeing that I have depression?
What will people think keeps rearing up?
I have spent my entire life building a brand. And while I have adjusted this over the years, it has always been positive, problem-solving, and trustworthy. Admitting I am human and have a human mental illness sends me over the edge. Saying I have depression at work, to my friends, or to my family goes against everything I have cultivated.