john mcelhenney, single dad, depression, recovery, covid depression

Gone Dark Again, and Again: Reanimating After a Quiet Period

Here’s the thing… If you’ve never experienced clinical depression what I’m about to write about is going to sound a lot like whining and complaining. Here’s another fact about my variety of depression, when I’m DOWN I can’t ever imagine getting out of it. My world warps into endless days of dark skies and hopelessness. And I somehow believe that’s it, “I’m done. I might as well end it.”

Capturing the Feeling of Depression

I don’t really feel all that dramatic about it. I’d just rather it be over. Like a high dose of Ambien and never waking up. End it. Be done with the crushing isolation and desperation. And I’m not suicidal. But I can imagine the good death, the easy ending, just a pause before the blackness wins forever.

Again, if you’ve never really felt the black blood running through your veins and ruining your life, you’ve probably not experienced Depression. You might have been depressed, or had moments of depression. But there is a difference.

One last thing that complicates everything for me: I can’t really write about it when I’m in it. I can, but it comes out and scares the shit out of me. So I get really quiet here and in my actual life. If I spoke some of the mad thoughts slithering through my mind, I’d freak everyone out. So I go dark. I let the darkness, the nothingness of this depressed state, overwhelm me. And once I’ve fallen in this hole, I have a hard time climbing back out.

Sometimes drugs help. Sometimes the drugs don’t seem to work. Sometimes relationships work. Sometimes exercise works. But eventually, I’ll stumble again. It’s a cycle that will most likely repeat for the rest of my life in various forms and various depths of illness. Okay, so I’m able to grapple with that sad truth. I don’t like it. But even as I’m emerging again, I have to know that I can and will probably crash again.

It’s hard for you to understand. I get it.

At a Complete Loss

When I don’t want to find a job, it’s not because I don’t want to work. I want to work desperately, with all of my heart. BUT… when the job comes apart as a result of a dark episode, I begin to imagine a future the I cannot work at all. Or at best, work as a cashier in a grocery store, or some other $12 per hour gig. And when I contemplate that, sometimes, I feel like ending it right there too. (I know, I’m whining. Sorry.)

And so here comes the narrative of my covid convalescence.

My world fell apart as covid was ripping into all of our lives and freaking out everyone on the planet. My livelihood evaporated. My relationship was going through a transformation after a breakup and an unsteady period. And I could feel the black bastards circling for me in March and April. And at that point, I shut the fuck up.

Everything changed in my life. A few stabilizing points remained. My relationship morphed into something else. And as my mind began playing tricks on me, I got quiet, and I stayed quiet. I allowed passive agreeableness to take hold of my emotions and blot out my own pain, my own dreams, and my own needs. I listened to everyone around me. I agreed with almost everyone. And I rarely offered my desires. When asked to make a decision about dinner, or some future event, I usually responded with, “Whatever you like.” I folded myself up into a tiny origami of my original self, and let go of my ambition, let go of my drive and dreams for my creative life. And I attached myself in an unhealthy way to my partner.

And that’s what we do for each other, in a relationship. We bend when the winds swirl around us. We agree to be together and to weather the storm. Covid, in some ways, gave me cover for my silence. Many of us “sensitive” people were struck mute by the ravages and fear of the virus as it closed windows, doors, and opportunities.

Where Am I Now?

The point for me, and for this post, is to come clean about a few things.

  1. I’ve been in a very dark and depressing period that was triggered by the virus.
  2. My depression is cyclical and will continue repeating. My job is to understand it better. To be more compassionate towards myself. To be more compassionate towards others who have to put up with me in my agitated as well as the depressed state.
  3. To share as much as I know, as much as I learn, and as many ideas as I have for modulating and lessening the pain my dark periods cause me and my family.

So Here I Am?

I wrote the “I’m falling down” post, but I unposted it. I was too afraid to expose so much of myself and my relationship. But I think today is the day to repost my self-awareness and warning narrative. And I will move on from here.

Several additional things I’d like to consider:

  • The effect unemployment has on my moods.
  • The effect that drinking has on my depression.
  • The effect that my depression causes me to be passive and not ask for what I need.

The difference is being assertive about what I want vs. being frustrated and angry about not getting what I want. When I am passive, I am “Okay, whatever you want to do.” But that does not serve me. While my partner may like my go-along attitude, I am really not giving much of myself. In many ways, I’m checking out. I’m opting out of the relationship and circling down into my own isolated and protective shell. But that’s not a healthy place for me. It’s fine as a defense mechanism when things are really bad, but it’s not a life or relationship strategy.

We’ve got to ask for what we need. Even when we’re depressed. Even when we are afraid. And that is my journey at this point. Being assertive and giving both my agreements and my disagreements the light of day.

A final note: I’m always both afraid and liberated to post this sort of confession.

1. I’m very happy to be out of a dark period and I’m happier to share it with others.

2. But I’m also afraid of being outed as a depressive MF.

The latter has serious consequences for my future employment. But, here we go, for now.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @wholeparent

Covid-19 Panic Attack – the post I wrote and unposted the next day. Exposing this stuff is part machismo and part confession. But showing my depression is scary.

related posts:


My first book on depression and my own recovery story is now available through Amazon. Here Comes the Darkness: Surviving and Thriving After a Diagnosis of Mental Illness.


Spread the love