Healing my Long Term Sadness and Depression - part 1

“In my late thirties, my life changed forever. My youngest son was diagnosed with a life-limiting, muscle-wasting disease. My mental well-being took a significant downturn. It was as if my heart had been wrenched out and stomped on. I was numb.”

2019

The oppressive path I had to travel was not one I had chosen, but nevertheless I had to make the painful drawn-out journey accepting the loss. The unbearable frustration of being absolutely powerless and the sadness of not being able to take the burden away from my child. I was submerged in an inescapable conflict, determined to focus on being positive, whilst battling with long periods of sadness and depression. I was positive and strong on the outside for everyone else and never spoke about my true feelings. I was suppressing my emotions and concealing my fear living with the gluttonous empty feeling that would never be satiated. The grief was insurmountable and would darken my thoughts and fill me with foreboding trepidation. To protect me from enduring sufferance, a new mask was formed – carved by a devious and unconscious ego for me to hide behind. An unfamiliar persona I barely knew or recognised.

My unconscious addiction shifted a gear. I rewarded my unexpressed suffering with more over-eating of junk food, and also becoming secretly addicted to pornography and sex, which led to making some very poor choices. I was becoming more aloof to my thoughts and feelings, hardened by the unwanted burden of mental wretchedness. I was distancing myself from my true identity. A pattern developed: I regularly drank excessive volumes of alcohol, passed out, then experienced fleeting periods of amnesia. For nearly ten years, I wallowed in self-pity, self-medicated and obstructed emotional pain, keeping my suppressed feelings numbed and myself in denial.

Silently battling to overcome the demons, the struggle felt like an eternal loop that I was stuck with. I’d make a little progress, then relapse, the inner conflict and mindset going right back to the beliefs of not being good enough or not being capable of change. I’d come back more determined, ‘try’ even harder, only to fail again just as spectacularly. It was as if I had no control over the stubbornness of my untethered ego, no choice in my destiny. I would blame external factors or seek answers outside of myself, citing the circumstances or the conditions to justify my lack of success. Anyone who has yo-yo dieted or struggled with addictions may understand the mindset. I was trying to slay a dragon that was getting stronger and more resistant with each new battle.

I had spent years sabotaging my life; my career (multiple times in a loop, believing I’m not capable); my relationships (believing I was not worthy of love); my success (believing I was not good enough). I was completely unaware of why or how that had all happened. In my darkest thoughts, I had considered the ultimate sabotage of my own life, morbid contemplation that would keep me awake at night. Eventually my unconscious ego became the master of my destiny, destroying my marriage of 24 years.

As a result of the marriage breakdown I sabotaged my cherished relationship with my two sons, Conor and Ben. By separating from their mother, I became persona non grata for a while. The decision to dissolve the marriage was painful for everyone. The brokenness of two people in their own worlds growing further apart over the years. Despite concerted mutual effort, my unconscious ego convinced me I would be happier on my own. It had become obvious that the separation was inevitable, and I decided for us. Of course, the outcome caused sadness, confusion, uncertainty and I was in no frame of mind to cope with the fallout for my family. I punished myself with more self-loathing, more guilt, shame and a depth of sadness I had never felt before.

For long periods, I would not see my sons. Communication was sporadic and transactional, more business-like than father and sons. I saw them infrequently and the tension was unbearable. I would be sad and unhappy, haunted by the awkwardness of distancing myself from them. I knew I couldn’t go back into the marriage for my own self-respect, but I missed daily contact with them. I hadn’t been an ideal father-figure, but I had been around and always had time for my sons.

The worst moment was on Christmas Day that year. For the first time ever, I was not with my sons on that day. It took me back to my childhood and the impact my father’s absence had on my life. How could I be such a fool and inflict the same experience on both of them? I imagined how my father must have felt being absent from us on just such occasions. The sadness was overwhelming, and I felt the tears welling up inside. I was unable to suppress the years of tension and resistance that had been hiding behind my veil of deception; the invisible mask was now engulfed by a flood of tears – a tidal wave washing away my pride. My heart and soul shrinking as I wept…