Today is World Health Day and the theme this year is depression. I wanted to take this opportunity as a man, husband, father, son, friend, human and clinical psychologist to talk a bit about my personal experience in dealing with depression.
I have a type of muscular dystrophy called FacioScapuloHumeral Muscular Dystrophy (FSHD). I was born with it and it has gotten worse over time. I played sports growing up and played tennis through high school, but I couldn’t keep my arm raised above my head. I played street hockey, but I couldn’t do a push-up.
Growing up with MD was a huge source of shame for me. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I hid it from myself and from others. I didn’t talk about it. When I couldn’t do the pommel horse routine in gym class in high school, I stayed after class and somersaulted around the room telling jokes to my gym teacher in order to pass. It makes me cringe when I think about it now, but telling him or anyone else didn’t even cross my mind.
I told my closest friends about it in college as well as my first serious girlfriend. It felt like coming out of the closet.
After I graduated from college, I started going to therapy and talking more about the MD. I was depressed on and off from the time I was 18 till my mid-thirties. I had a respite for a few years when I met my wife, Debbie. We were living in London and got married and our son was born there.
We moved to New York City when I was 30. That’s when things started getting more challenging physically. It became too difficult to navigate the subway stairs. I started tripping and having some bad falls and broken noses. I had a series of major depressive episodes in my early to mid- thirties that were directly related to my physical decline.
It had a huge impact on my relationship with Deb, who is also a therapist. We went to couple’s therapy together. I was in my own therapy as well. I also traveled to different places around the world to work with alternative health practitioners, trying desperately to slow down this runaway train.
I am 41 now. We moved almost two years ago to Austin, TX after 9 years in New York City. I have worked with many people with different chronic illnesses in my therapy practice, including running a group in New York for people with chronic health conditions. I have presented on the topic as well.
Probably the most profound thing that I have discovered is that my overall wellbeing is not inversely proportional to my physical state. In other words, even though I am a lot more limited physically now than I was ten years ago, I am happier. I am going to list what I consider to be the main components that have contributed to this (not in hierarchical order):
All of this said, I still have bad days. I still struggle. The dance of being connected while observing at the same time, is a dance that looks and feels different every day. I know what despair feels like.
I know what contemplating ending it all feels like.
I know what deep shame feels like.
I know what hopelessness feels like. These aren’t things you can just snap out of. Depression can feel like a black hole. I have been there. I am not there now and I have listed some of the reasons why. I share my struggles when appropriate with the people that I work with, because I know that I am not above or outside of anyone or anything. That’s why I am sharing them with you as well. We are all in this together. This much I know is true.
David B. Younger, Ph.D is the creator of Love After Kids, helping couples with their relationships since having children. He is a clinical psychologist and couple’s therapist with a web-based private practice and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Thrive Global. David lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, two kids and toy poodle.
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on April 6, 2017.
Originally published at medium.com