I am a man and I live with depression.
I am expressing this publicly for the first time. By sharing this truth, my intention is not so much to find relief from the weight of it, though there is some of that, but instead to share my experience in the hope it might give others, especially men, permission to seek help and work on getting better.
Let me first say that I know living with depression is difficult for anyone regardless of gender. I am not saying that my challenges are greater or more authentic because I am male. The bottom line is that depression is hard for anyone, regardless of age, race, sexual identity, gender, or whatever.
Depression sucks. Period.
What I can tell you is that part of my story has to do with the struggles of being male in a society that celebrates men as symbols of strength, bravery, and courage. The irony, of course, is that I possess all of these traits, but I also deal with feelings of disconnection, distance, and, at times, an overall flatness of experience that is difficult to explain or fully understand.
Let me say now that my life is and has been wonderful. It is by no means perfect and never will be, but I have so many things to be grateful for. I have an amazing and loving wife who is my very best friend, two wonderful kids, an extended family that loves and appreciates me, a group of trusted friends, a challenging but rewarding job and have all the material things I need.
Depression for me isn’t about being ungrateful for the life I have. In fact, part of my struggle has to do with the acknowledgment that I am okay but yet sometimes feel disconnected or unable to find enthusiasm for the things that matter. The distinction between ungratefulness and disconnection is important for anyone trying to understand depression.
No one chooses to be depressed. Being depressed isn’t a conscious decision that someone makes while making coffee one morning. “Starting today, I think I am going to be depressed.” It doesn’t work that way.
Depression is something that just happens. It is often a slow decline that occurs without recognition. And then one day, you realize that you and the world are out of sync and you don’t know why. And it is the not knowing or understanding the why that often leads to more detachment and distance.
Perhaps that is why the most difficult part of my journey was recognizing and admitting to myself that I needed help, that my thoughts and feelings were not okay, and that the guilt I felt for having those feelings was misplaced. The pressure I felt to be a normal, productive, and bulletproof provider for my family, my work, and the world only compounded my feelings of inadequacy and guilt.
Unlike the flu or physical illness, depression’s physical symptoms are less obvious and far more cunning. Depression can manifest itself in different ways for different people: fatigue, sadness, lack of energy and motivation, insomnia, anxiety, unease, fear, the flatness of emotion, a disconnected mind to body. I have at one time or another felt one of these, some of these, and all of these.
I am lucky. Seeing and feeling my slow decline, my wife, Meena, expressed her concerns and worry to me and began asking questions. I think someplace in my mind, I recognized I wasn’t right, but I either was not willing to ask myself the questions or, because of my mental health, had accepted my condition as fate.
I was able to find help and support through medical professionals as well as make adjustments to my life and daily approach. Although I still find days that are challenging, the acceptance and understanding of this part of my life help me to work in the solution and not live in the problem.
For many years, I was ashamed of acknowledging this part of myself for fear of being perceived as weak, ungrateful, undeserving, and a host of other negative identifiers. But my biggest fear was that I would be viewed as less than, an incomplete and flawed man in a world that required me to be the best.
Now I know it is important that I acknowledge this as I realize I cannot be one without the other. Although I have tried to separate the two, I now know they are not two mutually exclusive things. One is as much a part of me as the other. More importantly, the two are inseparable and form the essence of who I am.
I know I am a good person and deserving of a good life. It’s something that I have always known, but the fog of depression prevented me from accepting that. I am a work in progress, and this will always be so but I now have the tools and understanding to help manage that progress.
For any of you, regardless of gender, who finds something in my post that resonates or makes you realize you might be depressed, I want you to know there is nothing for you to fear. Help is available.
Be kind to yourself. Focus on the next step. Seek help and support.
You are important. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to live a good life.
Men’s Mental Health Resources to Explore:
Sereno Group Continues to Introduce Experienced Leadership to Enhance Client Experience and Provide the Highest Level of Support for REALTORS® on the Santa Cruz Coast
Sereno Group Expands Experienced Leadership in its Coastal Offices to Enhance Client Experience and Provide the Highest Level of Support for Local Real Estate Agents.
Since its inception in 2006, Sereno Group has built the most productive, philanthropic and locally owned residential real estate company in the Silicon Valley region through its focus on progressive, agent-centric platforms and innovative, socially responsible leadership. The tradition continues with the recent naming of a new leader in the company ecosystem.
Tom Brezsny, a licensed REALTOR® in Santa Cruz for 31 years and a recognized thought-leader in the local real estate industry has been named VP of Experience for the Santa Cruz coastal offices. In addition to being a top-producing agent and the recipient of numerous sales awards and accolades, since 1996 he has authored a well-known weekly newspaper column called “Real Estate of Mind,” geared to educating local residents about the real estate process and changing market trends.
In his new leadership role, Brezsny will lead a local team of 60 highly productive and community-minded agents to serve their clients and support them in growing their businesses while upholding the values and culture of the company.
“At Sereno Group, we believe in the essential nature of home and the importance of community in people’s lives. Every day we act as agents of change, helping our clients navigate through the biggest transitions in their lives. It’s an honor to share the values and experiences I’ve gleaned over the last 31 years with such a thoughtful group of like-minded professionals,” said Brezsny of his new role.
As a 42 year resident of Santa Cruz, he has also served on the boards of numerous charitable organizations at the same time he has actively contributed to a long list of philanthropic efforts, arts organizations, local schools, youth sports, and non-profit ventures. The Santa Cruz Association of Realtors honored him with their Annual Community Service Award in 2005, in recognition of his ongoing efforts to provide permanent housing for homeless families and children.
Together with his wife Terry, he is the team leader of Brezsny Associates, Realtors with an exponential set of skills and more than 50 years of combined experience that has yielded more than 1,000 local real estate transactions over three decades.
“Rarely do we see REALTORS® with such tremendous sales success willing and able to make the transition into management roles. In Tom, we have one of the most productive agents we’ve ever had on the coast who is inspired to make this significant shift into leadership.” Chris Trapani, Co-Founder & CEO”
Click HERE for the press release.