Remembering Early Battles with Depression

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I’ve been following Deborah Gray’s depression blog at for nearly a year. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in early 1999, I found her Wing of Madness website extremely useful in helping me understand and come to terms with the depressive side of my illness. Soon after, she graciously allowed me to use her message board to help me spread the word about my embryo email Newsletter, McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Weekly, and was one of the first to put up a link to my site, McMan’s Depression and Bipolar Web, when it debuted in late 2000.

    It was only fitting that Deborah and I wound up as HealthCentral’s first mood disorders bloggers. You might say we’re comrades-in-arms, but until today I had no idea how excruciatingly true this was. Deborah grew up with undiagnosed depression. In her latest blog, she writes:
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    “I, as a bespectacled, uncoordinated bookworm, definitely did not fit in. I was the target of teasing and some physical bullying. In addition, I had undiagnosed ADD, which made certain aspects of schoolwork very difficult as well as causing me to lose focus pretty frequently. A few teachers appreciated my love of reading, but let’s face it – most teachers don’t like the geeky misfits any more than the kids do.”

    Her story hit me like a bully’s fist to the solar plexus. This could have been me she was writing about. While some of the kids in my eighth grade gym class looked like they were ready for an army tour of duty, I came across as a fourth grader who had somehow walked into the wrong room after boarding the wrong bus.

    I was a natural target, and I compensated by slowly building up my own internal insulation that filtered out a lot of the insult and humiliation. Emotionally I became dead and my depression descended over me like a protective shield. Like Deborah, my isolation and inability to fit in made me even more miserable. On my own web site, I describe what happened next:

    “Just when I knew I could not ever possibly board that school bus one more time, my body would give out on me. My throat would constrict and flare up, my nose would heave up great gobs of green bloody snots, and I would cough the cough of the dead.”

    Deborah describes getting stomach aches. The experts have a term for this, she relates, called school avoidance. Just as a toxic work situation can turn a healthy individual into an emotional basket case, so too can a hostile school environment rob a kid of his or her childhood. Most kids, fortunately, show great resilience. But some of us have the equivalent of eggshell skulls. My childhood depressions occurred during the early sixties, when parents had no clue. Ironically, at the same time, my father was concealing his own depression from his employer for fear of being fired.

    Deborah strongly urges that parents be extremely mindful of what their kids are going through as they enter their new school year, and I second this whole-heartedly.

    I like to think that my early battles with depression imbued me with a deeper wisdom and humanity and divinity, but truth be told many days I wake up wishing I were a hell of a lot shallower and stupider and callous. I have a lot to be thankful for now, including a beautiful grown daughter who turned out to be God’s gift to the world, a wife who loves me, and much more. I focus on enjoying my life in the present, and look forward to more happy moments in the future. But some days I find myself grieving innocence lost. I can’t help it. I’m human.
Published On: October 02, 2006