Tantrums aren’t uncommon in kids. They’re not necessarily a red flag indicating something is wrong at a deeper level – unless, of course, that kid is 25 years old. And their tantrums have escalated to throwing beer bottles through the bedroom window. Not OUT the bedroom window, mind you, but THROUGH it, glass and all.
Yeah, that was me.
My anger followed me along for the ride for another 10 years, resulting in black eyes (to myself and others), disastrous parties (at my home and others), and a particularly dangerous encounter with a man named Dennis. Ends up this guy had a list of assault charges against women longer than the equator — something I had not known when I hurled a full beer can into his car’s interior.
My anger came out all over the place, usually with beer bottles and cans. I dealt with it by drinking to escape. So I drank and drank and drank some more. Talk about an angry drunk.
Yes, I was an asshole. No, I didn’t care.
All I cared about was to escaping the pain through oblivion.
No one connected the rage with depression
Despite the trips to psychologists, counselors and troubled teen groups throughout my youth, no one could pinpoint a cause of my rage. A few theories were kicked around, sure. But nothing came close to figuring out the truth until I was 35 and about six years sober.
By that time, the anger was gone. It largely left when my drinking left. But I was still left with a giant, gaping hole of pain in my soul. That hole of depression had been there all along, but it spent three decades masquerading as anger.
It all finally made sense. Anger had been my default emotion, so I fell into it when I started to feel anything.
- Sadness was anger
- Grief was anger
- Shame, guilt, embarrassment was anger
- Boredom was anger
- Love was probably anger
- Depression, alas, was anger
Not a fun way to live.
Not-so-obvious signs of depression
There’s a litany of obvious signs you’ll find on every depression checklist. They include things like increased drinking and drug use, change in sleep habits and appetite, no interest in things you used to enjoy, desire to isolate, and falling grades and work performance.
There are also hidden signs of depression, which are not so obvious – especially if the person suffering from depression doesn’t tell a soul what’s going on inside them. Or doesn’t even know what’s going on inside themselves.
In my case, my extreme rage was a big one. Anger sometimes masquerades as depression turned inside-out. Other not-so-obvious signs of depression can include:
- Feeling that everyone else “gets it” and you’re the lone, worthless loser on the sidelines who has no clue
- Thinking all laughter, merriment and happiness you witness is totally fake
- Thinking all people are totally fake (and they ALL must be feeling like you do inside)
- Irritability, discontent, restlessness – that won’t stop no matter what
- The strange, surreal sensation that this entire life is completely absurd, everything you do is meaningless
- Viewing life like one big long prison sentence and all it’s good for is sitting around waiting to die
Ouch is right. But that’s how I used to feel. For 35 freaking years.
How NOT to deal with depression
Effectively dealing with depression means taking action. Doing something other than sitting in a dark room drinking yourself into oblivion. Things won’t magically change on their own. They’re only likely to get worse. Especially if you’re drinking about it.
Alcohol happens to be a depressant, which I didn’t know at the time. Drinking may seem to lift the anguish for a spell, but in the long run it only makes things worse. In my case, much worse.
What to do instead
The action that works for depression depends on the type of depression you have.
Sometimes depression comes about from a major life change, loss or trauma; dreary winter weather (Jan. 24 has the annual claim to fame as the most depressing day of the year); physical health issues; medication side effects or other external forces. Here you can try changes in habits, lifestyle, working through emotions, and other activities. Coaching can help with all of the above.
Other times depression goes much deeper, as mine did. Here you can try consulting with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional that can provide a clinical diagnosis and additional help.
Either way, the worst thing you can do is sit in your depression and rot. No one deserves to feel that way. And you don’t have to wait 35 years to change it. You can believe happiness exists – and actually experience it – as long as you start moving forward in that direction.