Memorial of St. Ambrose
The Edge of Elfland
Concord, New Hampshire
I want to write to you today about an issue rather personal to me: depression. It’s an issue that is very present in the public eye, but I think it’s one that men in particular don’t often talk about. Yet, it is a problem that plagues men. The male suicide rates in 2017 were 3.5 times higher than those of women. But the reason depression is personal to me isn’t simply because I am a man, but because I suffer from it.
Since high school, at least, I’ve struggled knowingly with depression. I can still remember a day even earlier in 8th grade. I was sitting in Algebra class when all of a sudden my heart started racing. I felt a great weight press down on my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I went to the office. They called my mom, and she took me to the hospital. The doctors tested me for pleurisy, pericarditis, and more. Eventually, I was temporarily diagnosed with a strange, chronic kind of pleurisy, but I see now that I was experiencing panic attacks.
By late high school, I felt as though I was unwanted and unloved. Being adopted probably didn’t help, not because my adopted parents didn’t love me, they did and do very much. But it still was hard not to feel as though I was ultimately unwanted. And becoming a Christian in junior high didn’t make things easier either. Knowing God loved me, that he wanted me to exist, didn’t help me feel like existing. Eventually I went on antidepressants, but decided to stop in college.
I can’t remember why I stopped, I just did. I think maybe I just didn’t want to have that problem anymore. I always felt like I was just pretending to be depressed, that I just wanted the attention it would sometimes bring. But I was wrong. And so, for fourteen years I didn’t go to a doctor and I didn’t see anyone about my depression. Instead, I just went through seasons of happiness and deep valleys of depression.
Last summer was the worst I’ve felt in a long time. Everyday things just seemed to get darker. I was having panic attacks in the night. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t doing anything. I just … existed.
Some of my friends and family noticed the change, and so, finally, after 14 years, I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and got a new prescription for antidepressants.
I’m not all better, I’m not cured. Some days are still incredibly hard. I don’t write this as some kind of victory story. I write this because I’m certain some of you need to hear it, and you need to hear it from a fellow man.
Somewhere along the line, men were trained not to share our feelings. We were told big boys don’t cry, keep your chin, man up. We were told that sharing our feelings, embracing one another, these are womanly things, they’re “gay.” But too many of us die because we fear sharing our feelings with each other. This hasn’t always been the case. Charlemagne, Roland, Beowulf, these men at the very least were capable of embracing each other, even sharing a kiss, as friends. We have to be willing to share with one another, to weep with one another, to care for one another.
So maybe you feel like I do, that the world is pressing in on you and there’s nothing you can. Maybe you’re constantly afraid that you are unwanted, unloved. I can tell you that this isn’t true, but if you’re like me that won’t change how you feel. But I hope, that by sharing my story, you can see that you’re not alone and that you don’t have to be afraid. You can open up about the issues in your life. And you’re not weak or less of a man (or woman) because you struggle with depression or anxiety. So please, reach out to someone if you’re struggling. It is good that you exist.
David Russell Mosley