Of Monsters & Men: Battling Depression, Fear, Anxiety & Self-Doubt After a Loss by Rick St. Peter
The Monster comes mostly at night.
Forty-seven months after losing my wife, I am used to sharing the night with the Monster. I don’t sleep much anymore because I fear, as Hamlet said, “What dreams may come,” and so I lie awake still staying on my side of an empty bed. And the Monster comes. And we fight.
Depression. I am pretty sure the Monster’s real name is Depression. Or Fear. Or Anxiety. Or Self-Doubt. Or some hideous combination of them all, creating a toxic swirl that ebbs and flows in my mind.
- I fear I am losing my daughter to adulthood and distance. That I am becoming less of a necessity and more of a nuisance to her.
- I fear I am not giving my son the proper guidance and support he needs as he navigates his teen years.
- I fear I am allowing my health to get worse and that I will orphan my children.
- I fear living paycheck to paycheck.
- I fear that I cannot support my family on my single income.
- I fear that I am not only not catching up but that I am being dragged ever so slowly away from shore by the riptide of debt, medical bills and poor choices.
I feel as if I have been adrift emotionally, mentally, personally and professionally for a while now. I know so many people and yet I feel so alone all the time. Intellectually I know that I am not unique. I know that these fears and anxieties do not make me special. It seems, in fact, as if this is a new normal in 21st century America. But the Monster exists. And the Monster comes. And we fight.
The Monster rarely comes during the day, but recently that, too, has changed. I am trying to write it off to monumental changes in my son’s life. He recently performed in his first musical. He is starting high school this week. He had his first band concert. She would be so proud of him. And when I think of all the milestones she is not getting to experience with him and with my daughter as well, the hole in my life widens, my walls give way just a bit more and the Monster appears.
Standing in Panera last week, the Monster struck with full force out of the blue and I had a full-on panic attack. My son was about to order, but I told him we had to leave immediately. He knew something was wrong and much to my chagrin my battle caused him to become upset. I tried my best to assure him I was OK, but he’s extremely perceptive. There is no fooling my kid. And so the Monster comes. And we fight.
What is the point of all this? Why am I lying on my side of an empty bed writing this while wearing a CPAP mask at 2:22 a.m. on a Sunday morning? I think I want to share my ongoing struggle with the Monster to let people know that everyone is dealing with their own unique Monster. Maybe there is some sort of stigma surrounding a man, a guy, a dude, a whatever, admitting to this struggle. Maybe I am supposed to “man up” and with bravado say I am going to kick the Monster’s ass. I’d like to say that. And I am trying, Ringo. I am trying real hard.
I don’t know if I can kick the Monster’s ass. Hell, at this point, I’d be happy with a split decision victory. Because I am struggling. I want people – especially men – to understand that if you too are struggling it is OK to talk about it. To ask for help. I need help. I want to fight, but sometimes I don’t know how to fight. Maybe this will help someone out there even if it doesn’t help me. So I offer this for what it is worth.
Because the Monster is real. And the Monster comes. And we fight.
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