Admitting aloud, in the presence of others, that I struggle with depression has led to a profound change in my relationship with the disease.
Because I can now talk about it with others, because I can hear their stories and learn about their struggles, I am gaining a deeper understanding of my own problems. Doing this had led me down parts of memory lane that I really prefer not to revisit.
Depression has profoundly affected my life.
Why? Because depression has had a profound effect on my life. When I look back on my biggest failures, somewhere around them I find a bout of depression. Sometimes it’s the cause, sometimes it’s the effect, but whenever I poke around the dark corners of my memories, I see the shadow of the monster, hiding within.
I was supposed to go to Royal Military College. A bout with depression closed off that particular path, with long ranging repercussions. While I didn’t get it at the time, it really was for the best; you don’t want a depressive commanding one of Her Majesty’s Royal Canadian ships, but it blindsided me, and took a full 2 years to get my life back on track.
I was an A student for my entire life (you don’t get into RMC otherwise). Sure, the party life of an Engineering nerd who discovered how easy artsy girls are might have led to a little slippage, but it was the failed relationships in third and fourth years that killed grad school. Or maybe it was the depression that killed the relationships, and grad school was simply collateral damage.
These are just two examples, from my late teens and early twenties. Job changes, lost friends, family falling-outs. Two near misses with suicide, the following decades did not lack adventure.
It’s a very long list.
I live a good life. A blessed life. I have a wonderful wife, three amazing kids, a good job in a solid career and great friends.
All of which I have in spite of depression.
When I look back, I think what might have been if I didn’t have this constant struggle. Maybe I would have followed Chris Hadfield into space (I always wanted to be an astronaut). Maybe I’d have the advanced degrees I always wanted to pursue. Perhaps I’d be retired from the forces and double dipping that pension.
But you know what I wouldn’t have?
Mrs. StandUpRight and the boys.
Oh, I might have gotten married somewhere along the way (though likely not). I might even have had kids (even less likely). But I wouldn’t have this wife and these kids.
No matter how hard the struggle, no matter how dirty the monster fights, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how low I go, I simply can’t let go of this thought:
The monster made me who and what I am, and wishing him away is wishing away me. Worse, It’s wishing away three amazing kids.
I can’t do that.
I cannot look back on my life, with its struggles with depression, and wish away my boys. So if I could change something about my life, if I could with a wish, change just one thing, would it be ridding that long ago teenaged boy of his depression?
This is my fight, and there is no power on earth that would make me give up my boys, not even the power to wish away the monster.