I am a writer, budding men’s mental health activist, champion of creativity, and founder of The Creative Man, where I teach men how to improve their lives by reconnecting to the creative selves they left behind because they felt it was the “manly” thing to do.
WHAT WAS THE MAJOR TURNING POINT IN YOUR RECOVERY FROM DEPRESSION?
As odd as it sounds, just realizing I had it. I knew I went through periods of intense, painful, personal darkness, but I didn’t realize I had serious depression until I was in my 40s. Until then, I thought everyone hated themselves and had the same type of negative self-talk. It took someone else to point out that my self-loathing and self-hate was much more profound than what others felt. She also made me see that my depression impacted those around me, too. The combination made me seek professional help.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT REALLY HELPED?
Four big mental shifts helped:
1. Understanding that no two instances of depression are the same
- I thought for years that because something worked for someone else and didn’t for me, I was beyond help. So, in a cruelly ironic way, trying different depression treatment approaches, therapies, or philosophies only made it worse when they didn’t “cure” me. It was only when I figured out that my depression is different from others, that I stopped comparing myself against others’ results.
2. Realizing that denying myself support from others wasn’t manly, it was stupid
- It takes incredible courage to reach out to others, whether to talk about your depression, ask for help, or look for a community of people who are going through the same thing. (The latter is really important because although they try, people who don’t have depression sometimes have a hard time really understanding what depression does to you.)
3. Being open to different solutions
- Although I tried medicine and therapy, I had the greatest breakthroughs with a healer who helped me see that a lot of my depression stemmed from denying (and belittling) my deep desire to write. Like most men, when I was in my 20s, I told myself that my creative abilities wouldn’t pay the bills, so it was worthless and pointless. I then spent the intervening years sporadically writing or reading books about writing, only to squash those efforts because (I told myself) a man must focus on making money and providing for his family. I didn’t understand the impact that denial exerted on me until earlier this year when therapy and two books (The War of Art and The Artist’s Way) outlined that for a creative, not creating art leads to feelings of loss, depression, and isolation.
4. Prioritizing self-care
- By doing things for myself, especially early in the day, I sent my inner voice the message that I matter.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER GUYS FIGHTING DEPRESSION?
- Never give up hope. Ever. It’s not too late to find your way out of the dark. Just take one step, then another.
- Find your peeps, whether it’s an online community connected with depression or a local meet-up group to play basketball. It doesn’t matter. Just find other people who you want to hang out with and do it. At first, it will feel strange, awkward, and uneasy, but push through it. You’ve already overcome more than most and shown great personal strength. You can do this.
- Read up on depression. Educate yourself about what it is, what it does, and what yours feels like. The more you know, the better equipped you are to find things that help you.
– Bill Bridges, writer, men’s mental health activist, founder of The Creative Man, based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, United States.