A psychiatrist recently evaluated me. I suppose it could be re-evaluated since I’ve been evaluated by psychiatrists for decades now. Previously, I’d been diagnosed with depression, situational depression, ADD/ADHD (or whatever the cool kids call it these days), and probably countless others I’m forgetting.
However, after discussing my history of depression, he came to probably the most startling conclusion I’d ever heard from anyone I’ve seen in the mental health field: I don’t have depression. At the very least, I didn’t have clinical depression. He explained that the most common signs of clinical depression last at minimum ten days, often two weeks. I told him that generally (with some exceptions), my depressive periods lasted maybe five days at the most before I would break out of it. His conclusion: not clinical depression. He said it explained why the cornucopia of antidepressants that I’d tried over the years rarely ever worked for me.
I was miraculously cured! No more feeling sorry for myself! No more suicidal thoughts! Hell, no more suicide attempts! (Which, in retrospect, I think were cries for help.)
Of course, that isn’t entirely true. I still have depressive periods and suicidal thoughts. I still struggle with depression, but it suddenly occurred to me that maybe – just maybe – it was something I could overcome.
He did, however, agree that I had little to no confidence or self-worth in myself. He also believed that I had some form of ADHD, especially when I told him there were many times I would, say, forget to brush my teeth. Not purposely avoid brushing my teeth, just honestly forget – sometimes for days. It’s amazing I still have all my teeth and they look okay on the days I do remember to brush them.
His point about self-confidence and self-worth hit closer to home with me, though. It’s something I’ve been thinking more and more about over recent years.
For example, you would think that I’d be ecstatic to have my biggest dream accomplished: becoming a published author. Here is where my most often used phrase comes in: “The problem, though, is…” Basically just a fancier way of saying, “But…” The problem, though, is that it’s just a silly book about a mutant armadillo private detective who digs for the truth. A part of me honestly feels ashamed every time I have to describe my book to someone. I’ll mention in a conversation, “Oh, yeah, I had my first novel published last year.” Their face lights up, impressed. Then the next question is, of course, “What’s it about?” At that point, I feel the need to pause not for dramatic effect, but to swallow the dread building in my throat. Because when that question comes up, I think they’re expecting me to describe this brilliant, insightful, hoity-toity piece of literature. Then I say, “Well, it’s superhero detective fiction. It’s like Mickey Spillane meets Ninja Turtles.” I’m likely projecting my own self-worth, but I swear most responses are deflated with a “Oh, that’s nice, dear” kind of reaction. Even recently, when my counsellor held up the book in front of me and pointed at it, I just shrugged and said, “Yeah.” ALL of my younger selves, including the early 30-something guy sitting in a Toronto coffee shop writing the last chapter while wearing a fedora for inspiration, would smack me and say, “Idiot! You did it! You have a book – YOUR BOOK – published.”
And yet, I still can’t feel happy about it. I can’t feel happy about anything these days. My self-worth is so low that I feel like I’m just a burden on everyone and anyone around me, so I don’t bother contacting anyone. My confidence in myself is almost so non-existent that I’m barely even bothering to apply for jobs on the assumption that no one would hire me. I barely even look at women anymore because my immediate thought, past thinking they’re attractive or cute, is that they wouldn’t be interested in a sad sack like me.
A few years ago, I’d finally reached my academic goal: a teaching practicum. That was the goal for years: become a teacher. That was the goal as I struggled for thirteen years to get a useless 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree. That was the ideal. Just get through academia and you can go on to be a teacher, Nick. It was like grade school all over: pass grade 3 and move onto grade 4, Nick. I enjoyed the company of kids, after all. People said I was great with kids: I was patient with them, I listened to them, I actually gave a damn about them. All true. So teaching was the goal. Teaching was the plan. Make it through the academic part of teacher’s college, Nick. Spend a year, miserable and alone in a minuscule town in Maine, Nick, and you can go on to teach. Just go on to teaching and everything else will – should? – fall into place for you. You’ll have a stable career, a consistent 9-5 (ish) kind of job. Maybe with a good, stable job, you’ll stumble across a woman who would be interested in spending the rest of their life with you. Start a family. Maybe write some more books.
Except I failed miserably and wound up dropping out of the practicum. I knew there was a lot of hard work behind teaching. I expected that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even remotely ready to juggle the fifty billion things that a teacher must juggle at once – certainly not while teaching a Kindergarten/Grade 1 combined class (a level I knew wouldn’t be right for me, but that’s all my placement had for me, despite my protests). Even before the placement, I had (aka: have) a gaggle of self-doubt issues, but then I had to be careful of everything I said or did. My impulsive ADHD and foot-in-mouth nature certainly didn’t help in that situation. I couldn’t even let out a heavy sigh – admittedly a defence mechanism of mine to deal with stress – because the kids might read that the wrong way. I couldn’t take that pressure, along with having the juggle all the expected work. I was expected to take over the classroom by a certain point, but I was still terrified to even do a morning routine with the days of the week and such. I was crippled with self-doubt, along with no confidence or self-worth in myself that I just couldn’t do the job. When it came time for my evaluations by my co-operating teacher and observing instructor, the evaluation sessions always left me bawling my eyes out and going home early.
Since then – which was two years ago – I’ve felt broken, isolated, and directionless. I’ve barely even tried anything else because at this point, I assume there’s nothing out there for me. I assume there’s no one out there for me, either for a potential relationship or even friends I feel I can really relate to anymore. I don’t even bother doing anything anymore due to a crippling fear of failing again, finding myself somehow at a lower point than I already am. Worst of all, I’m too afraid of death or hurting myself to just end it all. Any time I go for a walk and cross a street, a part of me hopes that maybe a distracted driver will hit me and put me out of my misery.
After all, what’s the point? There’s nothing for me. There’s no one for me. I’ve lost what little hope I had left for a future.
But at least I’m “cured” of depression, huh?
You’ve got my contact info, and I’d really love to hear from you today. Even just a hi would be great 🙂
Some of your experiences mirror many of my own, and others I can imagine, while yet more are ones I can only express sympathy for, but I nonetheless value you, and that you share these thoughts. Please send a hello, and otherwise, take care, friend.
Yours in adversity as success,