Learning What It Means to be Relevant

Posted originally on The Good Men Project

We all want a sense of acceptance, a feeling that we belong.

Mental illness makes that difficult.

A diagnosis of depression. My career gone as a result. A mental breakdown. Not my best week.
It took 4 years to recognize that I could get healthy. Those years were spent with my family, going to weekly therapy, and hoping for relief. Some long days and nights but with moments of inspiration. The darkness slowly faded.

By the autumn of 2007, my life was showing some promise. I wasn’t completely healthy, but I knew I was fortunate in that I was on a healthy path. My lack of self-confidence had to be addressed.

I had this deep need to explain what had happened in my life. Few of my friends still talked to me. The stigma was so pervasive. If I had had a diagnosis of cancer, there would have been a queue after work each day to visit me. Mental illness, people stayed clear.

Acceptance by someone would have been so welcome. I craved for that acknowledgement.

One day, I went for groceries, a huge step, one to be celebrated. I was walking through the produce section and saw a dear friend walking towards me. I was so happy to see her, my heart raced, a bit anxious. She always hugged me when we met. I thought that finally someone was going to be good to me. She was about ten feet away when she noticed me. She stopped. I looked, our eyes connected. She turned on her heel and left me. I was hurt, angry, devastated. I didn’t leave the house for another two months.

I wanted people to accept that I had a mental illness and thus accept me as a person. With such low self-confidence and self-worth, I looked for the endorsement of others.

A former girlfriend, who was a superstar to me, emailed me years after my breakdown. We were a couple when my life came undone. Though I treated her terribly, I did not at the time understand why. I was rather thick headed about the symptoms, not knowing I had depression.

I had a presentation for the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society on Mental Health in the Workplace and we agreed to meet after. To be honest I was more nervous about seeing her than doing my speech. I hadn’t seen her in seven years. She was the one who got away, taken by my mental illness.

I saw a car enter the parking lot and I knew it was her. I waited to greet her, my heart skipping. We hugged, took a few deep breaths.

We chatted as we got our drinks. Taking a seat, I knew what I wanted to say. I had waited years for this opportunity, never thinking I would have it though.

I collected myself, wasn’t easy to do. I apologized for my poor behaviour. She was so gracious, saying there was no need. She knew it was caused by my depression. She opened her heart to me, even with all the hurt I had caused her. The tears flowed, mainly mine. My depression was acknowledged. My behaviour was understood. I was accepted.
Her kindness and empathy gave me such confidence. I started to look at myself from a somewhat different perspective. I am a good person.

I didn’t need validation by others. I needed my own. I had to realize that I was a full person, that I was worthy to feel good about myself. This has been one of the toughest parts about recovery and addressing my past. I still struggle at times with a lack of self-confidence and self-worth.

I want to be relevant to myself first. I want to feel proud about what I have done in my life. There have been some wrong choices having nothing to do with my depression! We all have made them.

I have come to accept how depression had a devastating impact and how it influenced my behaviour. I get it now.
With that knowledge I can now move forward.

I embrace my past. I enjoy the present. I welcome my future.

“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic” Van Morrison – Into the Mystic

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