People with depression tend to hide. They hide their pain. They hide the truth about their suffering because they fear no one will understand. So, they hunker down. They suck it up. They deal with it. Millions of Americans do this every day, seven days a week.
What is the alternative? The polar opposite of hiding seems to be a coming out into the open, a revelation of one’s true self. This involves vulnerability and trust and not a small measure of courage. But it can be done. Millions of Americans do this every day, seven days a week.
I know that in my own life, my hiding began in childhood. Seeking to avoid physical and emotional abuse at the hands of my father, I hid. I did so to be safe. Where would I hide? In the closet behind the hung clothes, the rafters of our garage or the cool and musty basement with the spiders. Sometimes, I would run as fast as I could on summer afternoons into the deep, verdant woods that surrounded my childhood home. I would lay down in the middle of a pine forest with my dog, surrounded by the trees that were my friends, that were my protectors as they hid me from my raging alcoholic father.
Drifting into adulthood, I didn’t let go of my habit of hiding. I had learned that others were not safe or just didn’t care. Like many other depressives, I became a pleaser, an overachiever and a success in my career – all the while hiding a sense of dread that I couldn’t figure out, let alone name.
I now know that I don’t need to hide anymore. I know that it is okay to be my true self with others I care about: my wonderful wife, my precious daughter, friends who are like brothers and sisters to me. Not hiding doesn’t always eliminate depression, but I have come to believe that there is a deep healing that takes place in intimacy that no antidepressant on its best day could match. I have come to believe in the strength and resilience of the human spirit, both mine and others. We won’t always find love and acceptance when we reach out to others. But then again, no one does in this imperfect, fragile and beautiful world. But I do know if we take the risk, if we leave the voices of our childhood that we’re not safe behind, we open ourselves to healing and an end to depression.