Don’t worry about me. I’m okay.
I was born in Boston City Hospital, the first son of an Irish-Catholic family. I’ve lived here for over 40 years. I spent the first part of my childhood on the South Shore. When I was nine my family moved to a town north of Boston; it was at the same time when Clemens came up from Pawtucket.
Throughout school, I was a smart kid with ‘potential.’ I did okay in school, but not great. I eventually fought my way into one of the Beanpot schools, where I played rugby and learned a bit more than I consumed in the bar after class. I graduated in the late 90’s, and opted for a career in communications that’s lasted over 20 years.
Today, I am a dad to two awesome kids. I believe that Brady, Larry and Big Papi are the Holy Trinity and I deal with depression every day.
Don’t worry about me. I’m okay.
I’ve been in and out of therapy since junior high school. It would help me get out of whatever rut I was in, and I’d move on. But I struggled with the idea that I was depressed. Even though I had smart, enlightened parents, who understood the nuances of mental health, we didn’t communicate consistently about much. ‘It’s fine; it’ll get better if I work harder on it. I’ll figure it out, I’m tough…’
For a long time, I was ashamed that the chemistry of mind and body was flawed, not ‘right.’ I thought I was weak, that I wasn’t strong enough to effectively deal with it myself. And this view reflected poorly on me as a man. My perception of myself a ‘guy’ was that I was less than, not good enough.
The fact that I was seeing a shrink to deal with my weakness was something to hide. It was a secret. I would tell my family and one or two of my trusted friends. That was it. I would never talk to any of them about how therapy was going. If I was doing okay. I was totally on my own.
When I would leave work early or at lunch for a therapy session, I would NEVER say that ‘I am going to a see my shrink.’ I characterized it as ‘an appointment’ or a ‘drinks with a buddy,’ or that I was ‘going to the gym.’
The Forceful Impact of a Tragic Death
In the summer of 2001, I was 26 years old. I had been laid-off in January of that year and I had been consistently unemployed for over eight months. I was so ‘stuck’ that I moved back to my parents’ house. On September 11, 2001, my sister lost her fiancé who was working in the North Tower.
In the aftermath of that tragedy, I took stock of my station in life and how I was living it. One of the changes that I made was how I viewed and talked about my mental health. I gradually started to view it as an illness, a medical condition. It was no longer a weakness, but it was like a pitcher for the Red Sox blowing out his shoulder and needing Tommy John surgery. Eventually, I broadened that analogy about my mental health to the continuous treatment of a long-term condition such as diabetes.
Looking back on it today, I believe that my approach to mental health had a real impact on how effective my treatment was. I was going in circles, and it wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go in my life.
This shift in mindset didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t flip a magical switch that instantly changed everything. As my closest friend from college, who is a therapist, says: ‘You have to do the WORK.’
The work is not just going to a therapist. It’s how you prepare before the session. It’s the need to fully commit to being present, open, honest and sometimes vulnerable during the time there. It’s doing your best to process the insights and lessons learned during individual sessions and committing to making the changes in how you view and live your life.
Therapy is not a perfect process. You don’t set the cast and what is broken heals stronger. There will be setbacks. The challenges are massive, and the benefits are subtle, but the impact can fundamentally change your life.
My contributions to this blog will dive into all of this and more. I hope it’s helpful to you and I urge you to let me know what topics and issues interest you.
–Matt was born in Boston and has lived in the area form more than 40 years, currently residing on the North Shore. During the day, he is a marketing and public relations executive and the rest of the time he plays the part of a grumpy father of two awesome kids.