When I Used to Hide My Depression

“Are you doing OK?”

“I’m concerned about you.”

These are phrases I hear today in my life. Sometimes it provides comfort. Sometimes it makes me think, “I used to hide it better.”

I remember growing up as a child, my family was loving. They were there for me, but I always hid the feelings I felt growing up, which I later learned were depression. My family didn’t know.

I hid it better.

I remember my teenage years, coming home crying, wondering why I was alive, what is the purpose, why did I feel the way I did. My teachers, my friends, they never knew back then.

I hid it better.

I remember being active in my church youth group, trying to reach out and help others. At the same time, wondering why I am alive and wondering if my family wouldn’t be better off if I was gone. The other teens, church members and the pastor, they didn’t have a clue.

I hid it better.

I joined the Marine Corps, went to and graduated boot camp, extremely proud. I still felt like I had no place in this world and like I didn’t fit in. I thought I shouldn’t be here, but my fellow marines, they didn’t know.

I hid it better.

I had my first child. I loved him so much. I thought for sure this would help me feel better. I had a purpose but that wasn’t the case. The depression was still there, telling me my son would be better off without me, that I would fail him. I wanted to die. My family, my wife, my fellow marines didn’t have a clue.

I hid it better.

Then in 1993, I lost my brother. He was 17 and I was 19. I missed him. I loved him and on one level I was jealous of him, wondering why couldn’t it have been me. An accident, my family would be better off. My wife and my family had no idea what I was thinking.

I hid it better.

After my suicide attempt, I didn’t tell anyone. I continued to struggle with my thoughts of suicide, not wanting to die but sad so much of the time. I remember teaching clients about the dangers of living behind a mask, thinking my whole life is a mask. My family, friends, and co-workers didn’t know.

I hid it better.

Fast forward to my life now, I have three children and two bonus children who mean the world to me, a job I love, family whom I love, friends whom I love, advocacy work I love, and I still have depression I hate.

What has changed? When I am having a tough time, my family and my friends ask me if I’m OK. They ask me what is wrong and they tell me they are concerned. Sometimes it makes me feel good that people notice. Other times, I get frustrated because hiding was much easier at times.

Why the change? I have chosen to let those closest to me know what to look for, what behaviors to pay attention to and what to know about me so they can intervene. I do this because, even though hiding the feelings is sometimes easier, it doesn’t fit into my plan of being open and honest about my mental health. It doesn’t fit into my plan for my family, friends, clients or anyone in general to be able to be open and honest about their mental health. I want my family and friends to tell me when they hurt. So I owe them the same.

This different approach has been a life changer. Yes, I still have depression, sometimes overwhelming. Sometimes, I even have thoughts of suicide, but I am continually growing stronger, more mentally healthy. I know I don’t have to act on these thoughts. I have more good days than bad days. I know it is because I no longer hide my feelings.

I don’t try to wear a mask. I have accepted depression sucks, but it doesn’t have to be a game-ender. I am so glad I took the steps to stop hiding.

I used to hide it better. What was I thinking?

This post was originally posted on Listening Saving Lives.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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