This is a man’s depression.
It starts subtly, covertly. It creeps in on little cat feet.
It isn’t a feeling of sadness. You’re irritable, irascible, short-tempered. Often, you feel unusually tired, often achy — it feels like you have a bit of a cold, or maybe the flu. You’re not hungry, or you’re hungry but nothing tastes good, nothing is appealing.
You start having trouble sleeping. Either you can’t get to sleep, or you get to sleep but wake up at 3 a.m., and can’t get back to sleep. Either way, you lie awake, and your thoughts start going to dark places — replaying humiliations from your past, or fantasizing trouble in your future.
Of course, now that you’re missing sleep, you’re even more tired, more cranky. People start to wonder what’s wrong, but they don’t ask because it’s not the sort of thing one does; and you know something is wrong, but you don’t talk about it because you’ve been taught since childhood that men just pull up their socks and get on with life. Besides, it’s not like anyone can do anything — you just need to gut it out. No one said you were going to be happy all the time.
Some men start to drink heavily — self-medication, but it’s not very effective. It may numb your feelings, but alcohol is a depressant — it pushes you down further. The next morning, through the headache and the nausea, you just see the hangover as more evidence that you’re weak and worthless.
More and more, you’re overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and shame. You find yourself thinking “I’m sorry,” without being quite sure what you feel sorry about. But you know you’ve failed, you will always fail. Relatively minor things become obsessive thoughts: You bounced a check? You’re a deadbeat and everybody knows it. You let someone down years, decades ago? You’re worthless and everyone knows it. They talk about how worthless you are behind your back.
That’s when you start thinking that everyone would be better off if you just died. Maybe you start thinking that a massive heart attack would fix everything. Or you look at the sleeping pills the doctor gave you for insomnia and think you want to go to sleep and not have to wake up again.
But you still don’t talk to anyone about it because you’re ashamed of being so weak, such a coward. You remember the things people have said about other famous suicides, and you’re even more ashamed of yourself. You’re worthless, a pussy, a coward, you’re acting like a little girl. You want to cry, but you can’t.
And then, one day, you’re certain you can’t bear it any longer, and those fantasies become plans, and you act on the plans. And everyone around you has to learn how to carry on without you.
And that’s a man’s depression.
We lost one this week. Bob Owens, longtime blogger and friend of many here at PJ Media, got to that point. He left an apology on Facebook, drove away from his home, and killed himself. I’m sure in those last minutes he was thinking that the pain was too much and that his family would be better off. It was an act of mercy and he wouldn’t really be missed.
Of course, he will be. His family will feel it. His two daughters will grow up with their father’s death as a backdrop of the rest of their lives. His wife will feel guilt, anger, grief, and shame. His friends, his associates, everyone who read his blogs, will know there’s a hole there that can’t easily be filled.
If this sounds familiar, if you see yourself in this description, you may be depressed, and yes, you can be depressed and not realize it. This is a depression screener; it doesn’t take long. If you’re thinking those dark thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is there, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, at 800-273-8255. They understand, it’s completely anonymous, and you don’t have to be suicidal to call them. And if you’re of a mind to, there is a GoFundMe for Bob Owens’ wife and kids.