With each passing birthday comes a sense of time shortening. The older you get, the more you understand that you have more days behind than days left to come. You awaken to each new morning determined to invest meaning into whatever time you have left.
Some people might call this occurrence a midlife crisis. Me, I’m not that eloquent. I call it feeling supremely tired of life’s bull.
Like hiding things. I’m so very tired of hiding things.
I’m not talking about privacy, keeping secret your Social Security number and passwords. I’m talking about how fear of what others may think or say prevents us from revealing who we are and that with which we struggle.
I’m talking about the burdens we carry in silence from cradle to grave, the things we never say for fear of stigma or humiliation. I’m talking about speaking aloud the truths most of us confine to the voice that speaks to us from deep within.
Here’s my truth. If you don’t care, I can’t say as I blame you. There are plenty of other pages in this publication. You should read stories those instead.
My whole life, since I was a child, I have struggled with depression strong enough to blacken sunny days and life’s victories. I have been sad when I should have been jubilant, sad when I should have been indifferent, horrifically sad when shedding a few tears would have sufficed.
I’ve talked to therapists and doctors for more than 20 years. I’ve taken antidepressant medication. I’ve told pieces of the story to trusted loved ones. But never once have I been honest about myself with the world at large.
I am doing so today because I am 54 – old enough to understand that I am no exception to life’s afflictions. I’ve had good friends take their own lives because of depression. I’ve watched brilliant men and women, people of the utmost character, have their lives decimated by this burdensome darkness.
I’ve struggled rather than ask for help, and I’ve stood by while others struggled – people for whom I might have offered a kind word, or been a resource. Instead, all I did was bear silent witness. That’s not enough.
At 54, there is not one more material thing I need as a gift. Thus, on this birthday I thought it would be more fitting to flip the script and offer a gift to anyone who happens to read these words. Call it advice or some hard-won knowledge, or a whisper from a fellow traveler.
This thing you have is real, and it sucks. But you are by no means unique in this. The voice in your head that tells you no one cares, that you are not worth it, that you should suffer in silence – that voice is a trick played on us by our affliction.
There are millions of people alive today who know the exact same feeling, people who would gladly walk beside you if only they knew what was in your heart, your mind.
Speak your truth. Ask for help. Help someone else. But know this – you are not alone. You never were, except that like me you allowed your silence to make it so. Depression may not be a choice, but honesty absolutely is.
Depression is but one story in a life full of them. It’s a tale we too often avoid, fearful of how the world might react. All these years have taught me that it’s the stories we keep to ourselves that do the most damage.
This darkness hates the light. Better to speak the truth, then, to let the light flood in.
David Leibowitz has called the Valley home since 1995. Contact email@example.com.