I can still remember the first time it hit me. I was in high school. As my teacher handed my exam back to me with a failing grade printed on it, I felt nothing. What once would elicit an emotional response in me now didn’t even justify a second glance. It wasn’t anger. It wasn’t anxiety. It wasn’t sadness. I just felt empty.
I remember this particular event worried me because all of the emotions I’d felt in the past, however inconvenient they may have been, at least gave me something to point to as the “issue.” Perhaps even a justification for my actions and behavior. This was different. You can call it depression if you’d like to. I guess it’s something of a creature comfort for us to clearly label things as human beings.
For the sake of this article, let’s ditch the labels. I like to call it a void of emotion, or more accurately, the absence of life. It’s funny, really. We, as a society, tend to look for things to numb and distract us. Whether it’s alcohol, binge-watching Netflix, or popping a pill that calms you down, it’s still nothing more than a distraction. A bandaid placed over a wound that needs stitches. But how does one distract oneself from feeling numb? Or better yet, fix it?
Questions filled my head, trying to solve the riddle. I come from a good family. I don’t have any outstanding trauma in my past. I’ve got clothes to wear and food to eat. So why do I feel dead inside? I knew at that moment that I needed help figuring this out, and yet I did nothing about it. I knew resources were available to me to help tackle this issue, but I ignored them. I believed the stigma that therapy was only for crazy people. I bought into the outdated belief that asking for help is weak.
During this time, my parents noticed a change in me. They would sit across from me at dinner and tell me how much they loved me and that I can always talk to them. I just sat there in silence, unable to respond or offer any kind of insight into how their only son was feeling.
It’s moments like this that leave me with deep regret. Not the kind of regret that can be fixed with an apology. The kind that wastes precious time—time we don’t get back. What bothers me most is that it didn’t need to happen. If only I’d asked for help sooner, how many more good memories could I have made? Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of my regretful actions. It was only the beginning.
As I entered my twenties, I was fortunate enough to live overseas as a teacher. How cool is that? While everyone else had their 9 to 5 paying off student loans, I was on the other side of the world, living the excitement they only wish they had. And yet, I still had this underlying feeling. That emptiness. What’s the point of all this effort? Life is pointless anyway. We’re born, and we die. Everything in between is meaningless, isn’t it?
Without allowing myself to talk to anybody, the pessimism added up in my head year after year like a trash bin nobody bothered to take out. Without help, that emptiness had unfortunately transformed into negativity, anger, and frustration.
In hindsight, I was angry at myself and not at others, but I didn’t see that. It seeped out of my thoughts and into every aspect of my life. My career, hobbies, and relationships began to suffer immensely. I could see it happening right in front of me, and I still kept quiet, feeling that reaching out for help was below me. Job opportunities squandered, girlfriends lost, and even massive weight gain all haunted me as very real proof that my issues weren’t as hidden as I would have liked them to be.
This continued for most of my twenties and came to a head shortly after my 28th birthday when I got incredibly sick. I was hospitalized in a foreign country, 9,000 miles away from home, getting no answers from any of the medical staff as to what was wrong with me. I was so weak. I felt like I could stop breathing at any given moment.
It was the first time I thought about my mortality. What scared me the most was that I honestly didn’t care if I lived or died. The emptiness that I felt all those years ago in high school was still there. It had now added up to the point that I felt death would be easier.
I eventually made It through that medical nightmare and found myself at a crossroads. If I don’t care whether or not I live or die, am I really living? I may have a pulse, but am I actually participating in this beautifully strange experience of being a human on this earth? The answer was no. I wasn’t. At that moment, I realized that seeking professional help to deal with how I’m feeling is not weak.
Letting myself succumb to the negativity in my head and take it out on the people around me? That is weak. Going outside of my comfort zone and seeking help to better myself? That is strong. Seriously, screw all those old stigmas surrounding therapy. It could be your secret weapon to a happy future.
And so, I signed up for my first therapy session at age 29. Better late than never, I suppose. The first session was uncomfortable. I won’t lie. Opening up emotionally for me was about as foreign as speaking a different language. I did not give up. I went back every week. Eventually, I started to open up and finally talk to a real human being about what bothers me and how I feel on a daily basis.
I have been seeing this therapist for over six months now, and am much happier and thoughtful in my actions. I approach conversations with more confidence. I think twice before I get angry. I even feel more appreciative of the good things in my life. I am finally all here. Completely present and engaged.
What therapy offers you, above all things, is a chance to get some unbiased advice. Loved ones are a blessing in life, but they are often not inclined to be completely honest with you. Especially if you are dealing with people who are not emotionally open themselves. My point in sharing this journey with you is to show you that you should not feel shame in seeking help.
If you feel like you need to work some things out in your head, I encourage you to seek help. Do not waste as many years as I did walking around with that dark cloud over your head. Be patient. Whether it’s getting in shape, writing a novel, or seeing a therapist, it takes time. There is no magic solution—only repetition and practice. I encourage you to stick with it and better yourself now. Life goes by fast. Make sure you take time to enjoy it properly.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author: Jeffrey Baker. I am a Chicago native who has been fortunate enough to work as a teacher in both Thailand and New York City. I am currently living in Cambodia as a small business owner. I’m very new to the world of mental health services, and I am excited to dive further into all of the helpful resources that this community has to offer.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
Recommended for You
- 6 Ways You Can Improve Employee Mental Health and Well-being in Your Business Workplace - January 27, 2023
- Managing a Mental Health Condition and Your Career - January 26, 2023
- Urgency Culture: On the Go or on the Nerve? - January 24, 2023