My favorite superhero growing up was Captain America. As a boy, I saw qualities in him I wanted to emulate. He was strong, and fearless, and always courageous. In certain areas of my life — like Captain America — these qualities have come naturally. From signing up for West Point after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, to leading soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on combat missions, to the time I carried an injured woman off a mountain during a flash flood. In other areas of my life however, these qualities haven’t come as naturally.
Last year I got a really bad concussion and it put me in a dark place for months. I was embarrassed about my concussion and didn’t tell anyone for a while. Not my friends, not my family, not my therapist, not even my girlfriend. From that experience, I learned that it’s not healthy for me to try and hide things in my life that show I’m human.
I shared this with my therapist and she encouraged me to think about what it would look like to show I’m human and to be strong, and fearless, and courageous with an area of my life I’ve struggled with for nearly a decade now. So for me, the boy who was taught by his father to never cry for anything, the young Army officer who thought he could show no emotion in front of his soldiers, and now the 30-something professional in San Francisco worried about showing vulnerability and insecurity…
It means talking and opening up about my struggles with depression.
Eight years ago, I found myself in upstate NY, having recently been assigned there for my new Army duty station. One day I woke up and felt so utterly alone and sad. While I’d felt these emotions before, this was something much more intense than anything I’d experienced before. I jumped in my car and drove 4 hours straight to New York City because I felt this overwhelming need to be around people. I went directly to Times Square, and there, surrounded by thousands of people, I cried.
The years since then have been filled with many highs and lows as I’ve battled depression. Hours and hours in therapy, taking anti-depressants, broken relationships, and feelings of hopelessness. But recently I’ve started to open up more about it, to face it head on, and to get the help and support I need. And while it makes life really hard at times, I’ve also tried to focus on the good things my depression has given me. It’s made me more understanding and empathic to others who are struggling and allowed me to be a better friend to them. It’s forced me to be more in tune with my emotions and to talk about them. It’s enabled me to be more present in the here and now — because I know things can change in a moment. It’s helped me not take the important people in my life who support me for granted.
I’ve taken many positive steps in my struggle with depression, and opening up about it where before I was silent has been a huge step for me. So for those of you who are also experiencing depression, know you are not alone. Acknowledging it and owning it can help bring healing. And you’ll find who the important people in your life are as they’ll show up to support you. Take that important step — don’t hide the things that show you’re human.
A version of this post was previously published on Medium and is republished here with permission from the author.
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