The Day the Darkness Crept In

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Edited May 15th: The Dad blogging community recently learned that one of our compatriots, Marc Block from Divided Dad, had succumbed to depression and taken his own life. Now, a number of Dad bloggers have decided to work together to share our stories and hopefully raise awareness about the effects of mental illness and to let others know that it’s okay to ask for help. My story is below and I have linked the other bloggers stories at the end. Thanks.

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It’s hard to pinpoint the exact day it began. The trigger was easy to decipher. It wasn’t long after my father had passed away that I started experiencing the symptoms. Nagging pains, fatigue and a lot of tears quickly became a part of my daily regimen. I was excellent at hiding it, rarely breaking down in front of even my wife, if at all.

When my father passed suddenly after an ATV accident, I felt like my entire world had been stripped from me. Instead of dealing with the grief and pain in the way I imagine most people do, I decided to take on the role of super strong male provider guy, so I wouldn’t have time to stop and think about what had happened. The strategy worked for a while, and then things started to go horribly wrong.

I remember the first trip to the emergency room like it was yesterday. I had shot out of bed with a pain in my chest and shortness of breath and decided not to take any chances. You can imagine my surprise when the doctor’s said everything was fine. The events that followed this visit are something that I will never forget. I must have visited the emergency room about 12 more times that year, along with 10 more trips to my family doctor, 4 specialists and 3 CT scans. Every trip was more discouraging than the next as I was getting no answers and was quickly becoming the poster child for hypochondria.

My lowest point was while we were living at my in-law’s house, with our new baby, while waiting for our new house to be built. I can distinctly remember the feeling of emptiness that was sweeping its way throughout my body. I would try to put on a face for everyone but there came a point where I just didn’t care anymore. There were many sleepless nights, hours wasted just lying on the couch and more trips to the emergency room. I wasn’t exactly an absentee father but I definitely left my wife high and dry, and I certainly wasn’t feeling whatever it was I was supposed to be feeling about fatherhood. I’ve never felt so emasculated and useless in my entire life. These were the hardest days and the ones I regret most when looking back on my son’s first year.

My last trip to the emergency room provided the awakening I had been searching for. I had been thinking a lot about how much better off my family would be without me and my problems in the picture. That’s not to say I ever thought about harming myself, because I didn’t. I just knew how hard I was making things for my family and wondered if things would be better without me, if that makes any sense. The doctor in the ER was sympathetic and asked what I thought was wrong with me. This week, for no valid reason, I believed I had Multiple Sclerosis. He ran some tests and quickly dismissed my fear; and then he saved my life.

He asked if I’d ever been to a psychiatrist, to which I responded, “No way”. You see, I wasn’t crazy and only crazy people needed to see a psychiatrist; or at least that’s what I thought. The doctor insisted by explaining that he thought I had an anxiety disorder and that it could help. To my surprise, it only took a couple visits for me to start understanding why I experiencing all of these symptoms. By the time four months had gone by, I felt like a new man and was well on my way to recovery.

My last session with the psychiatrist was about 3 years ago and I have been almost symptom free ever since. Sure, there are times when I feel the anxiety building, but I am now equipped with the tools to deal with those instances. My point in sharing this story is to let you know that suffering in silence does nothing but make things worse for you and everyone around you. Reaching out for help doesn’t make you less of a person and in fact can only make you stronger, in my opinion. Don’t let the darkness take over, ask for help, you’ll be glad you did.

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Krazy Dad Memoir – Do Not Go Into That Good Night

Dad of Divas – The Time Is Now To Ask For Help

Clark Kent’s Lunchbox- Dump Truck Full of Dead Babies

Dads Who Change Diapers – When the World Goes Numb

Dad’s a Lawyer – Words From the Wife

The Daddy Files – Come Back to Me

Dads Round Table – Strategies to Fight Depression

Be a Little Weird – Recognizing Depression in Men for What It Really Is

32 replies
  1. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    My first anxiety/panic attack happened in November this year – similar to your first experience. Middle of the night, woke up thinking I was dying. My vision went funny and my heart was racing. I was so freaked out that the adrenaline surges kept me up all night. I realized about an hour later that I was not dying and it was anxiety. I’ve had a few anxiety ridden days/nights since, but usually I just calm myself down, even though I often feel on edge.

    and yes, I should probably see my GP about it ;-)

    Reply
    • Chris Read says:

      I forgot about the vision thing. I went in and out of my eye doctor’s office for a long time as well. It was awful. While I definitely recommend seeing a doctor, at least you understand that you are dealing with anxiety, which is way farther ahead than I was.

      Reply
  2. Tammy says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I know many people out in this crazy messed up world are going through the same thing and also hiding it well. Myself included. It is hard to reach out and even harder to admit you need help. I have been through a whirlwind in the last 3 years and still have not dealt with it and scary to think that the darkness you speak of is creeping in a little more every day. After reading your story I now feel that there may be light at the end of this and its as easy as talking to your family doctor. Thank you again

    Reply
    • Chris Read says:

      Thank you for the very open comment, Tammy. I definitely recommend talking to a professional about it. Sometimes help is a lot closer than we think. If you ever need to share, you can always email me and I’ll be happy to listen.

      Reply
  3. kristine says:

    I would never want you to go back to that place again…but I wouldn’t change what I did. I will stand by you. For better or worse. You are brave for telling your story and I love you.

    Reply
  4. Kathy says:

    Thanks for sharing my dear son-in-law. We all have different triggers in our lives that can cause us to feel alone but there is always help, support and the love of family that I can move us to getting better.

    Love you dearly.

    Reply
  5. Wendy [mapsgirl] says:

    Big hugs to you Chris!!

    Thank you for opening up to all of us. I know sharing very personal thoughts, feelings and events isn’t easy. I know in my heart that by you telling your story will help someone else. I just know it.

    Reply
  6. James @SaskaDad says:

    It takes a lot of courage to share and it shouldn’t. Mental Illness isn’t something a person should have to be ashamed of but in our society it still is. Thanks for sharing.

    I am clinically anxious and have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life or be so on edge that I’m a grouchy prick all day long and I can’t be a good dad if I’m feeling like that.

    Reply
    • Chris Read says:

      Thanks, James. I did the pill thing for a while as well but found that, for me, the talking about it is what made mine feel better. I’m guessing because it was brought on by not grieving my father’s death properly. Also, thank you for sharing that here. I hope that we can get to a point where it isn’t something people look down upon.

      Reply
  7. The Maven says:

    Beautifully written. I have tears.

    Between 2002 and 2005 I had convinced myself I had cancer, heart disease, MS, degenerative eye diseases, and a host of other things. I feel like I lost some good years of my life. What I lived with inside – that awful, stressful, foreboding feeling all day, every day – was indescribable. I get it. I really do.

    Therapy helped me immensely. I no longer have the hypochondria part of anxiety, but I still have bad anxious days. Not nearly as many as I used to, however. Things are looking up.

    Thank you for sharing this. You’re helping so many people. :)

    Reply
  8. Christine says:

    My favorite line:
    “My point in sharing this story is to let you know that suffering in silence does nothing but make things worse for you and everyone around you. Reaching out for help doesn’t make you less of a person and in fact can only make you stronger”
    All I’ve got to say AMEN! Heroism comes in everyday acts like dialing a phone and going to an appointment. Writing blogs and reaching out.

    Reply
  9. Always Home and Uncool says:

    I still have to occasionally convince myself I’m not having a heart attack. Had to again yesterday. Stupid snow shoveling/bad disk. We all have our weaknesses, we just have to own up to them and learn how to overcome them. Good work, Chris.

    Reply
  10. neal says:

    Appreciated this post. It’s not easy to admit this kind of stuff, but getting help, and normalizing that many, many productive people have to deliberately manage some aspect of their mental health is an important thing. Good job.

    Reply
  11. Lisa Ladrido says:

    I am so happy that you were able to find treatment and that you feel better now. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health issues and I was so glad to see your post! So many people suffer in silence and they shouldn’t feel alone. After a head injury in Afghanistan my son is now suffering with mental illness. It is so sad to see that he may be forced to leave the Navy because of it. In my situation for three years all the doctors kept on saying was that it must be anxiety and it ended up being a neurological disorder, (I have more about that on my blog!). The human body is so complex! Thank you again for writing this and bringing awareness to this problem! ~Lisa

    Reply
  12. Christine says:

    I really want to thank you for your openness and honesty in your writing. I really appreciate you sharing such a personal thing with us. I’ve experienced some of what you’ve mentioned. It stemmed from the death of my grandfather and resurfaced again last May when I lost my grandmother. Even just the every day events of life can make me overwhelmed, anxious and send me into fits of tears. I’ve sought counseling and have been learning how to cope. It’s nice to know that we’re not alone. Thanks again for sharing.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. [...] different person than I was just five short years ago. I am not afraid to share stories about my issues with anxiety, my fatherhood insecurities or my hopes and dreams, because I don’t want my children to [...]

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