What Brings Me Down - Wednesday 5/14
So the big question is what brings me down? I do not even have to think about it twice before answering. He is an old friend; he has been in my life for years. I suppose I made friends with him at around 7 or 8 years old and like most friends he served a purpose at first. He (yes I think he is a he) would motivate me to do better, find better ways, or strive to be better than I was. He was a great motivator. His prompts were sometimes brutal but he was always there. When he would show up I would study more, read more, or try harder. He always prompted me to do better.
As I started to grow up he grew more persistent. By 10 to 12 when mom was so ill and I was often alone at night he would remind me to be good, try harder be smarter. Many nights I lay awake in fear. I would ask the question is mom coming home this time? What did the doctor say? Would she make it would she call tomorrow? Dad would talk on the telephone in hushed tones, as dad came home he would look worried, my grandmother would cry. I could sometimes see mom at the window of the hospital frail and ill she would wave and quickly go away. I would worry but then at night he would join me in the silence of my room, do better, be smarter, go faster. When my mom went away for 3 months the opioids for nuropathy had taken their toll I felt so alone so bitter at the diabetes I had come to know.
As I grew up he was a constant presence. He was often critical of how I did things, how I looked or what I did. I never seemed to measure up and even if I did he reminded me I could do so much better. He even had words for it. His chant was relentless, be faster, smarter, brighter, and better. His commentary would grow worse around tests, but then he started staying for longer periods and never leaving.
When I got diabetes he took over. He lived in me and always made me remember how much I needed him. How much he was my friend how he never left. I was 17 and he told me the truth. You are lost; you need to be better, faster, and smarter all around. Your path will be difficult you will need to worry your hopes for a career, family; your life will soon be over. You need to be smarter, faster, and better than the rest.
In college he was in every class and every room. I was never good enough. I was lost in a sea of people who were smarter, better and faster. I tried so hard to oblige but no matter how much I worked, I was just never good enough. I did make it but depression told me the truth I was not worthy of being there, let alone graduating.
When I went to work it was apparent I had good luck but I did not deserve to be there. I did not write well enough, I was not smart enough, intuitive enough, or good enough to be employed. For years I worried about my job if I did well I worried all weekend that I was mistaken. If I did poor I expected to be fired the very next day. If I didn’t make a difference then I was expendable, if I hit a home run it was never enough.
When I went back to graduate school I was good enough but not at the top of my class. So he showed up again. Others were brighter they had more experience, I was never good enough. When I graduated it was a gift, I had squeezed through again. But I barely made it, and he told me it was close. Whatever I earned was not because of skill I was lucky and I did not deserve it to be sure. I had to be brighter, smarter, faster, the constant theme.
As my career progressed I gained in reputations. I was called on to make important decisions but it was never enough. When I accomplished my work goal at age 35 and I was offered the position of City Controller, I knew the truth which was bigger than me. I was not bright enough to have the job, I was not quick enough to be in the position I was in, and I was not fast enough to catch on.
When I joined the schools I fell apart. I was 43 and not bright enough, not smart enough, not quick enough to be in that position. I was responsible for over $40 million annually of budget and yet I could not order from a menu. I was unable to know how I would proceed. I was able to function some at work but barely and I realized a truth maybe the first I’d heard in years. I was not dead.
The doctor had predicted I could work until 40 I was given my diagnosis. I was 43 and still going. The plan I had been given had gone wrong, I was 43 had responsibilities, a family, a life. . But something else was wrong as well. The tape played so loud. You are not worthy; you are not fast enough, smart enough, bright enough to be alive.
I did something positive for the first time in many years. I went to a therapist we talked things out. I was able to put things in perspective. I started antidepressants and thought about the doctor’s prediction long ago. For years I was depressed and depression ruled my life. I also cannot say I conquered it. I still hear those words of long ago as I go along. I need to be faster smarter, better than I am.
Today however I know some things. I know that I have a wonderful wife who loves me, two children now grown men who I love dearly, I know I love my grandchildren as much as a Poppa can. I also know that sometimes I am deserving. Sure I hear that familiar refrain more often than I wish. I still see a therapist and I still take an antidepressant. But it no longer controls me. Yes it is difficult to write this blog and harder still to read it. Diabetes did not cause my depression but it did not make it better either.
A better way to put it is that diabetes is a contributor starting when I was a child. I do always suggest however that if you are feeling depressed even if you do not know it for certain. Talk to a doctor I am living proof it helps.