The following post was delivered to me from an anonymous NHL fan. The author asked not to be identified, but wanted to ensure that the message was delivered. Please Like, Tweet, Share, Email and make sure this article reaches as many eyeballs as humanly possible. These are the words of someone who knows all too well the stigma and pain of mental health issues in our society.
If you or someone you know has concerns with depression or other mental health issues, please reach out to them.
For more information, please read more at the Mental Health Association of Minnesota.
Depression doesn't care who you are, what you do, what gender you are... it happens. It's one of the psychological disorders that occurs in every civilization in the world. It's genetic, it's triggered by problems in your environment. It's nothing to be stigmatized, nothing to be scared of, and definitely nothing to ignore.
This summer's taught hockey fans that. The shock surrounding Rick Rypien and Wade Belak's passing has brought it to the forefront of dialogue, where it should be - it's never discussed. People who have it want to make sure everyone else doesn't find out, and people who don't have it - well, it scares them. It confuses them. It makes them uncomfortable. It's so much easier to put on your blinders to those around you who suffer, and for those who have it, it's so much easier to try to hide what you're feeling even when it's tearing you apart.
The biggest thing that I've heard since Rypien and Belak's passing is "Why? Look at what they have! They have everything! They have no reason to be depressed!" That's a common misconception - that depression doesn't strike well off, happy people. It does. Something that's been mentioned over and over again is how normal the guys were - how nice. How adjusted. Probably the truth was how unwilling they were to impose their thoughts and feelings upon their friends and families. How they didn't feel like talking would do any good. How they didn't want to lose the friends that they had by being a downer, so they kept their mouths shut and soldiered on like nothing was wrong.
Depression is a problem in the brain involving neurotransmitters - specifically in most cases seratonin. The neurotransmitter is reuptaken (yes, that's a word now) into the sending neuron too quickly, not giving it time to fit into the other neuron to send its message - namely, a message of mood elevation. This is what causes the depressed mood, and this is why depressed people can't just "think their way" out of things... and why a lot of times things seem so bleak after feeling this way for so long that you think yourself into doing things. Sometimes those things offer temporary reprieve from the pain that you feel, other times they offer permanent release.
I've suffered with depression off and on since junior high. It's always been there, but it first seriously manifested itself at the end of my senior year of college, right before graduation. I was questioning my career choice, and how good I would even be at the job. I was scared and uncertain, and my friends generally didn't want to hear it. I learned quickly to not talk about how I felt with anyone, because those that I confided in wanted nothing to do with the problem, but those who I kept on putting on a happy face for, well, they still wanted to hang out. I didn't seriously contemplate suicide then, but life was a chore, and it was made more so of one by the fact that how I felt - the fact that when I was really myself, I was insufferable to be around - drove away the people I cared about the most.
This isn't going to show up on some NHL mandated test. People can't tell those that the care about the most how they feel, and they don't want to ruin their jobs - they'll act and answer the way that society expects them to. They'll continue to be secretly square pegs in round holes, knowing that they don't fit and that at any minute they'll pop out for all to see. But they'll keep their fingers crossed that they can get away with this charade just a little while longer. They're people like the rest of us.
Depression came back with a vengeance in 2008. I have a good job. I have a masters degree. People actually (for some odd reason) read what I write and take my opinion as seriously as an irreverent, goofy blogger's opinion can be taken. I have a family who cares, and I have friends who do too. I even managed to win back those I alienated with my depression before, but now it's harder to talk about things than it was in 2003. Now, I know better than to talk to my best friend, or my family. I pretend everything is ok at work, I go out with my friends when they call and ask - but don't go out of my way to call or ask them. I spend more and more time alone, drinking and watching hockey. Anything to get my mind off of how I feel. Summer vacation - my own personal "off season" - left me too much time to think, to dwell, and to get caught up in my own negative thoughts. I didn't talk to people for a week at a time. I was on and off of medication - the anti-depressants I've taken tend to make me feel total apathy and give me hand tremors, so those do no good.
The more I sat on my couch, flipping around listlessly on TV, the more I realized that I was in pain - physically and mentally - and that my mind wouldn't function. And that I couldn't tell a soul about it, because the rejection'd be too much to handle. I had justified to myself that them not dealing with me ever again'd be preferable to me putting them out by whining about how I felt. I had planned to commit suicide.
I'm sure that if I had carried through with my plan - a hiccup in driving arrangements for karaoke one night actually saved my life - everyone's reaction would have been familiar to those of you who have been keeping up with the news recently. "Oh, I never thought anything was wrong. She always seemed so happy!" That happiness I did for their sake, and it was killing me on the inside.
Now I keep busy to keep my mind off of things - I cook (and taunt others with photos on Twitter of what I cook), I write, I watch hockey and immerse myself in the sport that has always been my security blanket since I was a little kid watching Brett Hull. I'm scared that there's a possibility of relapse because one of my teams, the Thrashers, aren't there to offer me something to obsess over. Going to NHL games was my way of relaxing, of caring about something that maybe didn't matter in the long run. That's gone now, but I'll still continue to pour over player stats, and read the blogs and news sites every day, because hockey gives me something to love.
I think that's something those of us who suffer from depression all feel - everyone has something that they love, and when that's gone, the feelings of depression can come back at any time.
Thanks to the guys at HW for hosting this - hopefully it helps people understand what depression is. I had been toying with writing something since Rypien passed away, but I wasn't sure if I should. I write under my real name, and it's not something I want my students, family, and friends to know. I'd post on the SBN site I write for, but those posts pop up on the hub under my real name as well. Luckily, SB Nation has the nicest network of blog managers out there, and so many offered to publish this just so I can get this out there. The support and understanding of the hockey blogging community amongst each other is tremendous. It breaks my heart that Rick Rypien and others like him were unable to open up and discuss their problems more completely with their hockey families. I'm sure that the reception would have been the same.