Coming Out of the Shadows in the Bigger Picture

I’ve dealt with depression over the last several years with my therapist Lance. I’m so very grateful for the intense work that we’ve done. Along with my other practices like Aikido, meditation, and writing, I keep inventing my measure of peace.

There is much suffering in depression, particularly when going it alone, in the quiet, in the shadows. In the shadows, at least for me, that voice in my head was never kind, “Jon, you’ll never be enough…” With Lance, I identified the source of that voice, which wasn’t mine; It was my dad when I was 8 years old. Although most of my abuse was not physical, I had experienced severe trauma as a child. Apparently, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resides not only with combat soldiers, but also with others of us who have experienced trauma. No, that’s not good news.

Yet, in identifying the source of my suffering with Lance, I looked at my fear of my dad. Gradually, I could separate the harmful acts from the man. No, I don’t forgive my dad yelling and terrifying me as a child. Yet, I forgive him for being human, for being imperfect. Dad had suffered—perhaps more than I have—with his own father. Just saying.

Cheryl often reminds me of the Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi, the beauty in our imperfection. We are all imperfect. We’re all human. Just deal with that. In doing so, I had compassion for Dad and for myself. I started to heal myself, by loving and forgiving me.

Although I’m the one who had to grind it out, to “make it work,” as Mizukami Sensei would say, I did so with my supportive community including Sensei, Mom, Lance, John, and Cheryl. I had to come out of the shadows: I had to ask for help in the quiet.

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I’m good with my life. I’m proud of my life. Yet, were I to do this again, I think I would have come out of the shadows sooner, and asked for help, be with the people I love. That’s the inherent trap of depression: I didn’t want to be a burden upon others. Consequently, I isolated. Looking back, I would have come into the ‘light’ sooner.

The term depression refers to major depressive disorder and clinical depression. An estimated 16.2 million adults in the United States (6.7% of American adults), have at least one depressive episode a given year. And I believe that statistic only measures those, who are getting treatment. There are likely millions more living in their shadows.

In the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Annual Report in 2017, the 10th leading cause of death in the US was suicide. Subsequent CDC Reports depicted the suicide rate increase for those 10 – 15 years old and those 20 – 25 years-old. Although there is no direct causal link to “mental illness”, i.e. depression per se, the CDC reports such suicide causes as physical pain or failed relationships. Perhaps, those who chose suicide suffered greatly, to the extent that the “undiscovered country” was preferable over the undiscovered life. That’s tragically sad.

I get what it’s like to be in that suffering space. I never considered suicide. Yet, in the throes of my depression, I’d go to sleep at night hoping that I would die before I woke. Depression can be that consuming. Fortunately, I got help and ground it out.

When my dear high school friend Grant passed away from suicide that really landed for me. How very sad. I was heartbroken because I had an idea of what he might have been going through.

Grant was a good man. He called me up earlier last year to give me some useful, humorous tips for dating on Match dot com. His Mom had just passed away earlier in the year. He was about to get married. He sounded happy.

Apparently, not so. I didn’t know what was going on inside Grant, the suffering he was hiding. In the throes of my own depression, I also faked it a whole lot. Rest in Peace my Brother “and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

All that being said, we all suffer in life. According to Buddhist doctrine: To know suffering is to be human. Whether that suffering is clinical depression, pathology, or just having a bad time, ask for help. Don’t suffer quietly in the shadows. We should all be able to say, “I’m lucky to be alive.” Or at least say, “I’m okay.”

We arise out of our communities. We make each other greater than we know ourselves to be. Our communities are the people, who have mad love and respect for us. In your suffering, ask them for help. Reach out. Hint: They really want you to. Come out of the shadows into the light. More than just saying. Amen. Amen.

Have you read the original anthology that was the catalyst for The Good Men Project? Buy here: The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood

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