The "D" Word
When I began writing this piece, I had fully intended to write about something completely different than the “D” word. But I made a commitment this year to write more openly about a struggle I’ve had for most of my adult life. And more specifically, to write about hope and survival.
In 2004, I was officially diagnosed with Depression, a.k.a. The “D” Word. After two brain injuries in 2002 from automobile accidents — and countless concussions previous to that — I began a journey that led me into the darkest corners of life.
I’ve spent most of the past 16 years believing that I was the only one that was this messed up. Even after all the work I have done, I still think “What would people say if they knew I had a mental illness?” Better yet, “What would people think if they knew I have to take a minimum of 12 pills a day to just be “normal?” No turning back now, that secret’s out of the bag!
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects more than 16 million American adults, or roughly 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older. Depression can develop at any age, however, the median age in the United States is 32.5. This makes Depression the leading cause of disability in the United States among this demographic. I would have thought that being a leader among disabilities would come with some sort of fanfare, yet depression is not talked about openly. It is an illness that is hidden well and allows its victims to isolate themselves easily.
In the immediate years after my brain injuries, I somehow managed to finish college. By most accounts, I was a very successful man on the outside. But on the inside I was in misery. I didn’t want to accept who I was, and I ran as hard as I could to push myself to exorcise the demons of depression and the awful shadow that comes with it. I destroyed whoever crossed my path and didn’t support me. I was the victim. The harder I ran, the deeper my Depression got.
Often, not always, depression comes with “friends.” The friends that mine came with were Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and an General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This is often referred to as the “trifecta” of mental illness. Why have just one when I can have three?
Because some of you are curious, like me, you’re probably wondering what or how my PTSD developed. After two car wrecks within 30 days — one where I had to be cut from my car — I could barely drive without experiencing enormous fear. I would see things while driving and break down emotionally if I saw a bad wreck. I rode the bus for nearly two years and only drove when I absolutely had to. This is better now, but sometimes it sneaks up on me and I remember I need to care for myself better.
In 2015 I reached one of a few rock bottoms that I’ve had in my life. I remember getting to such a bad place in my mind that I actually believed that the world was done with me. I recall actually saying the words, “The world is done with you. It is time to move on.”
I’m not implying anything here, I’m owning that I stared down the barrel of suicide and decided to start fighting back. It was by no means as easy as it sounds. I wanted to die. I felt like I was such an overwhelming burden to my family and friends. In early 2016 I found myself laying in a jail cell. It was there that I told God, “I’m done running. I’ll do whatever it takes to change. I’ll do whatever you want as long as I am a better husband, father and man.”
There were three books that were instrumental in starting my journey back home and my healing:
- The Dark Side of The Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. It helped me begin to understand that there was “value” in owning my shadow and caring for it. This was the first time I ever considered that through the lens of Depression, PTSD, and anxiety I see the world differently than a lot of people, and there IS value in my perspective
- And two books by Brene’ Brown, Daring Greatly and I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). Her work has helped me understand that “I’m not alone,” and “I am enough.”I don’t have to hide who I am. I can safely be vulnerable and authentic.”
My initial Crucible Project weekend was in March of 2016. Since then, my healing journey has continued. It has been a rough road, and painful in ways that I could not have imagined. But every day I stay in the fight and surviving is sweeter than honey.
The words, “What will people think?” have taken on new meaning for me recently and I no longer see that question as a negative. I see it as an opportunity to talk about mental illness, recover and triumph. I’ve also discovered that it is “OK” to be “NOT OK.” I am surrounded by Crucible Project brothers who love me so that I don’t have to live in fear of what others will think of me.
I want to close this by asking each of you that reads this piece to talk about the “D” word more openly, and speak with compassion for those of us that struggle with mental illness.
There are people around you that struggle just to get up each day because the weight of Depression is just too heavy of a burden to lift. Ask people if they are “ok,” tell them they are loved … and mean it.
Maybe that person is you? Know that you are not alone … ever. I see you and I understand. Reach out to your brothers, lock arms with them, and let them carry you through the darkness. Let them be your eyes when you can’t see the good man, father, or husband that you are. We are never alone…The Journey Continues…together!
By Dave Record
Dave completed his initial weekend in 2016. He has staffed weekends and is working toward completing the two-year Transformational program curriculum. Dave holds a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering, and master’s degrees in Operations Management and International Business. Dave and his wife Leslie they own and operate MedExcess, Inc., a medical supply business based in Denver. He is passionate about airplanes, baseball, his kids, writing, and learning how to transform the lives of men through his ongoing work with The Crucible Project.
Photo Credit: David Sterbik via Creative Commons