Are You Stuck? – The Cloud of Depression Isn’t Just Black and Stormy

February 15, 2017

Depression does not always reveal itself in the clichéd, ‘doom and gloom’ cloud that follows you around, accompanied by a sad soundtrack featuring a mix of The Smiths, Joni Mitchell, and early Bruce Springsteen. Depression can be an unconscious malaise that slowly takes over your mood about everything.

This dynamic is something that I’ve come to better understand over the last year. Becoming a dad brought a level of responsibility to my life that I didn’t fully anticipate. You can get out of marriage, you can sell your house and escape your mortgage, but you can’t avoid the requirements of parenthood. Children are a tremendous gift, but sometimes they can be an intimidating responsibility.

After the birth of our second child, I felt increasing ‘stuck’ in my life. I wasn’t as motivated at work, and my performance started to suffer. There were things around the house that I needed to fix, but I didn’t feel like repainting the water damaged ceiling in the dining room and couldn’t be bothered to fix the storm door that just didn’t close right.  I was digging deeper and deeper into the dark, working harder and harder and yet getting nowhere

When friends would ask me to go to a Sox game or grab dinner, my first reaction was to say no because I thought I should be home with my kids or I needed to catch up on work. My therapist helped me to understand that how I was currently functioning, I didn’t have a way to process what was going on in my life. To that end, I started to do two simple things to improve how I was processing my thoughts. If you have felt this way, you may want to try one or both of these to see if they can work for you.

  • Find Time to Hang –Each month I make an effort to meet up with at least two friends. Sometimes we talk about serious stuff that’s going on in our lives, or we just bust each other’s balls. Whether it’s a round of golf, a meal featuring lots of grilled meats, or watching Brady and company on Sunday, it’s been helpful to just hang out with another dude who is going through similar challenges in life.
  • Put Pen to Paper – Last year a friend of mine urged me to keep a journal. It was something that he did to help him reflect on his personal and professional life, and he thought it was something that could work for me too. To gently nudge me to do this, he sent me an old school fountain pen via Amazon. And you know what? It worked! A few times a week I sit down with my old school pen and my kids’ colored construction paper (which is perfect for the dark fountain ink), and I write down whatever comes to mind. I’ve found the tactile process of putting pen to paper is meditative for me. The simple process of carefully constructing sentences by hand has helped to bring definition and meaning to the many thoughts floating around my brain, which is often half the battle for me.

These two simple activities have helped me feel more organized about my life and more mindful of my actions and behavior. It’s in no way a solution and I continue to work on all of these things, but it is getting better.  If you’re looking for some resources or tools to help you process things that are going on in your life, visit http://massmen.org/resources.