Depression struck me with tragic suddenness. “Move your stuff”! demanded my wife. She pointed at the journals, papers, and books piled high beside the chair where I worked while we watched TV together. Angry and deeply hurt by her rejection of my feeble attempt at togetherness, I gathered up my things and slunk away to my basement office. Starting that day—my 52nd birthday—I sank rapidly into deep feelings of anguish and loss. Five days later, preyed upon by unfamiliar and frightening images of harming myself, I checked into a mental hospital. Suddenly I entered a new world of meds, therapy, strange feelings about myself and a fear of the abnormal people around me who seemed clearly different from the normal person I believed I really was.

Depression is a serious illness that goes far beyond the normal and temporary ups and downs of daily life. Depression involves an abnormally deep and prolonged lack of interest in things that are normally pleasurable, along with physical changes such as disrupted sleep patterns. It can vary considerably in appearance from one person to another, but three broad categories are recognized: major depression, an intense depression lasting a minimum of two weeks and at risk of recurrence over a lifetime; dysthymia, lower grade depression lasting over a much longer period of time; and bipolar disorder, which consists of alternating periods of depression and manic feelings.

Depression involves a fundamental lack of self-worth that, at its worst, amounts to self-hate or such profound hopelessness that self-harm and suicide can appear as rational solutions to an individual’s problems. While no single accepted theory explains depression, it is generally believed to involve a series of factors: suppressed anger turned inward toward the self, negative cognitive behaviors (“stinking thinking”), genetic predispositions and abnormal brain chemistry.

Now, eight years after my crash, I understand that my depression did not unfold in a single week, as I first believed, but was rooted in childhood wounds. It began, in fact, with my conception about D-Day when my father, a naval officer, was on leave between convoys in the Atlantic. My mother carried me in fear and worry until the day of my birth, when she went into a very long labor. I was eventually extracted with forceps that bruised and bent my skull. Six weeks later, she abandoned me for a month and a half while she accompanied my father to the Pacific, where he would serve aboard a troop ship in the last months of the War. These and later traumas of infancy seemed life threatening at that age and I learned to protect myself by dissociating—“going away” mentally—and erecting emotional walls, skills that kept later life from hurting me no matter what happened.

As a child, my use of these defenses was not evident to me or others. My distrust of people looked like mere shyness. My fear of life seemed like the rigidity and staidness of an overly regulated minister’s son. From marriage on, life seemed normal to me, with its usual share of happy times and disappointments. Occasional, mild depression broke through, but I did not recognize it for what it was, and only once—for the purpose of saving my marriage—did I enter a brief period of counseling. But my underlying unhappiness grew over three decades of marriage, until I had lost interest in my wife, sex, and home life. Only my career sustained me, and I invested my whole heart in it.

Women readily experience and express their feelings and when depressed they are more aware of it and more often seek treatment. Because of this, it has been widely believed that women are more prone to depression, perhaps by a factor of as much as 4:1.

Men, by contrast, hide their depression in two ways: by covering it up with addictions—sex, alcohol, drugs, work, risky behavior—and by erecting walls to hold in their feelings behind a rigid countenance. This has led some observers such as Terrence Real (I Don’t Want to Talk About It) to argue that male depression is greatly underestimated and that the true rate may be equal to or higher than the rate of depression in women.

There are good reasons for men to keep their depression hidden. Men are socialized from boyhood to be tough and hold in their feelings (“real men don’t cry”). In adulthood, they hold important positions as breadwinners, family heads, and civic leaders, positions that don’t allow any sign of weakness. Thus, the social pressure for men to keep their depression under wraps is powerful.

Like most men, my depression was hidden. But unlike many other men, I didn’t turn to the more damaging and overtly addictive behaviors—sex, alcohol, drugs—to cover up my hurts. My addiction was socially acceptable—workaholism. Work and the emotional walls I created protected me and held in the pain and explosive anger about what felt like a wasted life.

Finally, my job turned sour, dealing a blow to my ego attachment to it. My job helped me feel important because of the feelings of power and accomplishment it gave me. With those stripped away, my protective cover was gone and nothing was left to protect me. At that point, it took only the flimsiest rebuff from my wife for things to fall apart.

At the time of my crash, I thought I was normal, but in truth the damage from five decades of living without authenticity was deeper than I knew. In addition to major depression, I faced serious dissociative disorders, commonly experienced as “going away” or “fogging out.” Child abuse—certainly verbal and possibly sexual as well—and continued verbal abuse in 30 years of marriage brought on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD left me vulnerable to replaying old traumas triggered by seemingly unimportant events and viscerally afraid of being close to women. I also developed a schizoid personality split that made me both narcissistically self-absorbed and self-hateful at the same time. Had I sought treatment for depression earlier, I might have avoided these more serious mental problems.

A variety of therapies are available to heal depression, including individual counseling, psychodrama, body work and an increasingly effective array of medications. Since my implosion eight years ago, I’ve been in twice-weekly therapy and taking medications. My therapy has included individual sessions and a psychodrama class, plus special PTSD therapy from the Therapy Spiral Institute. This therapy—plus extensive reading of psychology, self-help and spiritual literature—has led to many insights, emotional growth and a gradual unfolding of my ability to manage my condition. Now largely depression-free, I am able to focus my work on other areas of personality growth and healing.

My recommendations to other men are these: If you have an addiction—to alcohol, drugs, sex, work, or something else—it is probably covering up depression. If you are feeling dead, with walls tightly holding down your feelings and protecting you from hurt, this too is probably hiding depression. Seek an evaluation now from a qualified mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker) to detect your depression and avoid even more serious mental problems that may develop if it is neglected.

Ultimately, the goal of therapy is to augment the connection between our hearts and heads, a connection that is all too commonly disrupted in men. Furthermore, the journey of recovery can lead to a higher level of consciousness in which holism replaces individual self-absorption, as well as a richer spiritual life, however you choose to define that.

The Mankind Project has been a big help to me in coming to grips with my true feelings, giving me a purpose based on giving, reconnecting my body and mind and establishing genuine human relationships, especially with men, whom I once feared and resisted. As it has for me, MKP can help other men with depression begin to live authentically and face up to the truth of their lives from which they have been hiding.

Author's Bio: 

Norman Reid, PHD is a retired USDA rural development worker. Among other things, he is now a photographer and writer. Norman is a member of the ManKind Project of the greater Washington, DC area. For more information on the ManKind Project and our New Warrior Training Adventure, go to