“My Foolhardy Fix for Depression: Deny It”
The signs of depression in men can be subtle, and dealing with ADHD makes me want to push it to the side — not another condition to manage.
My psychologist, Chris, flips through pages of a thick folder on his lap. I stare outside through his office’s white plantation blinds. The morning sun pops off an oak tree’s new leaves.
Chris finds what he’s looking for in the folder. “So, a few months ago, Dr. E notes here in your chart that your depression is in remission…”
Behind the tree, the Georgia sky shines bright blue and cloudless. Hot days already here. Yesterday, our minivan’s radiator fried and died. Seven hundred bucks — kablooey. I’ll never get my credit cards paid off. You might as well throw me and the cards into recycle crusher with all the rest of the used-up plastic crap.
I blink, look at Chris. “Yeah, that’s right,” I say. “I’m good.”
“I don’t think so,” he says. Then we get into this long thing about how back then I’d been off anti-depressants for almost a year and I told Dr. E, who’s the psychiatrist and prescribing doc in their practice, that I had my mood swings under control and had stopped digging down into deep holes of incapacitating depression. Maybe I was sincere, but Chris and Dr. E had both noted my repeated dug-in opposition to anti-depressants, which I brought up in sessions with each of them, even when neither of them had suggested the meds. So maybe that was why now, when apparently my depression has returned, I deny it. I’m feeling itchy. I want this session to be over already.
“As you know,” he says, “a high percentage of people with ADHD also have depression or anxiety. The right anti-depressant could really help. Dr. E. can prescribe a low dose that could lessen the side effects that trouble you.”
Man, I don’t want to hear this. “I already take ADHD meds and a bunch of supplements. I don’t need any more pills. I meditate. I’m just a little worried. Everybody worries. Or they should. I’m not digging a dark hole. I’m not depressed.” We end the session in a truce, me grinning and laughing to prove I’m A-Okay, and Chris concerned.
As I write this post, I can honestly say I’m not digging a dark hole. That metaphor had a little hope. Instead I’m trapped inside a big thick black sack of fear and self-loathing that I make thicker and heavier with every day I deny my depression, resist help, and, 18 years after my diagnoses of ADHD with comorbid depression and anxiety, still refuse to accept the full scope of who I really am. I keep looking at these conditions as something I “have” — like the flu. That view encourages me to disregard symptoms, avoid help, and indulge in self-pity.
Here’s the thing, I think. You don’t want ADHD to define you, but it does and always will. Because it’s not something you have, it’s a major part of you, your life experience, and personality. Like it or not, it affects how you see the world and, whether they know it or not, it affects how others see you.
Some years ago back in Hawaii, a quadriplegic friend of mine, Brian Shaughnessy, told me, “Your problem is, your pride won’t let you accept your disability.” I didn’t really understand what he meant until now.
Once I send this post in, I’ll call Dr. E and see what he can do to help me get out of this sack of sorrow and back to full strength.
Maybe I’ll even take another pill or two.
Updated on May 10, 2021