A Series on Self-Doubt: In Which I Make a Confession with a Capital D

I recently watched something that (forgive the schmaltz; there’s just no way around it) was life-changing. I shit you not–the sudden shift of inner balance that I felt in my gut had the same emotional substance of when learned of my pregnancies, or when I heard that my great-grandmother had passed away, or when I heard, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” Moments like that–whether joyful or mournful–are pendulum pushers; all you know is that everything that follows After will make your life swing so differently that getting back to Before is impossible.

Fellow Aiming Low writer Elan Morgan, better known as Schmutzie of Schmutzie.com, shared her talk titled Self-Doubt and the Power of Personal Narrative. She’d originally presented it at the TEDxRegina conference in May, and she posted the video and her slideshow on her blog a several days ago.

It was like gravity displaced itself, and I was falling up. Gears shifted, and I swear that I could audibly hear shit clicking into place.

I watched it once. I watched it again. I watched a third time.

And then, I cried.

I’m not really an outward crier. I might get a little sobby when sadness is appropriate, but the waterworks shut themselves off a minute or two and any other tears left get shed internally.

When I say that I cried, what I mean is that I puddled into the floor and sobbed until my head hurt and my throat was raw.

But when I was done, my eyes were open and for the first time, I was able to really look at what I’d kept them closed against.

Schmutzie’s presentation outlined ten points about self-doubt, and she used herself and her own experiences as the supporting examples for those points. I’ve thought them over and through to the point that now my experiences and feelings about those ten points are clawing to get out. Introspection works like that for me; sometimes I need to get it out, step back, and see it from a distance to get more insight from what the bigger picture shows. Over the next several days, I’m going to work my way through Schmutzie’s 10 points about self-doubt.

Because I’m a gangsta, I’m starting with number 10. It’s the one that sort-of lays the groundwork for other nine. It’s the one that pushed the pendulum.

— #10: Share something with people that you’ve been afraid to say out loud. —

(deep breath)

I think I might have a certain degree of depression. (You have no idea how long it’s taken me to type those ten little words.)

I don’t sit around weeping into my Cheerios, but there is a weight there. It’s a sort of heaviness that I feel tugging down my eyelids and kinking my shoulders. I’ve felt that for a long while, and I never really stopped to consider whether it was depression or not. Maybe the thought fluttered through from time to time, but it was never more than a fleeting consideration when I stacked up all the wrongness to figure out what’s wrong with me.

It’s like with physical aches. Two days of gastric grossness could either be just the flu (perfectly normal), or OMIGAWD, I have Ebola and I’m totally dying.

Feeling bluesy? It could either be just the (perfectly normal) stress of dealing with [insert temporary Situation X here], or WTF, Situation X was resolved weeks (or months) ago and I still feel like shit, so maybe I’m with-a-capital-D-Depressed.

Ebola and depression lived on the same planet of unlikelihood, so the idea that I might be depressed never settled in long enough to take root.

But then a couple of weeks ago, Frank and I were playing Jeopardy (as we geeks like to do) and a commercial for some random depression/anti-anxiety med came on. It was of the type where the speaker rattles off a list of symptoms: “Do you feel tired all the time, think you worry more than normal, have trouble sleeping, have feelings of guilt, blah blah blah, then you might be experiencing symptoms of depression….” 

I was 100% joking when I snorted and said, “Well, hell–maybe have depression.”

“I think maybe you do,” Frank said.

Startled by his tone of voice, I whipped my head around to look at him. By the expression on his face, I could tell that he was 100% not joking. He’s a relatively quiet man, but a smile almost always tickles his mouth and crinkles the corners of his eyes. This time, there was no humor in his furrowed eyebrows, and his stare was concerned and direct.

It might sound flaky or trite to say that his expression was piercing, but that’s exactly what it was. It stabbed through my skin, and the possibility of Depression-with-a-capital-D snaked in and curled itself around my bones.

I’ve been turning the idea around in my hands and feeling at it from every angle, and the more I work my way around it, that’s the more defined its shape is becoming. And when I look down at this pointy, angular thing I’m holding, it’s clear and shiny and bright, but it hurts my eyes and makes me squint. I’d turn away to convince myself it’s something else, but its heft and form feel too true to delude myself into thinking differently.


The word feels clunky in my mouth and is too misshapen for me to swallow completely, but I can’t deny that it is there, and I don’t know exactly what to do with it yet.

But at least I can say it even if it chokes me, and I can look at it even though I keep it at arm’s reach in my periphery.

40 thoughts on “A Series on Self-Doubt: In Which I Make a Confession with a Capital D”

  1. I’m so glad you shared about your depression. This is something I have struggled with for most of my life since early childhood. I really believe it can give as many gifts as the things it takes away, and admitting it and finding the best way around and through it is powerful.
    Keep us posted.

    1.  @schmutzie I do want to get to where it is more gift-giving and less brain-sucking. I know I’ll get there. I’m gangsta like that. ;)(thank you, schumtzie)

  2. I am proud of you. It was really freaking hard to admit to myself that I was depressed and just as hard to say it to others.
    So much love to you.

  3. JenGreshamDozer

    Here’s what I recommend, as a psych nurse: see a psychiatrist and not a primary care doctor. PCPs may miss the finer points of things. If your school system has an Employee Assistance program, schedule an appointment with a counselor. They can refer you to someone or to a regular therapist if you need that. Depression may or may not require meds, but should have a therapy component to treatment.
    I’ve had depression on and off my entire life. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is not different than our infertility- a medical issue with a neurobiological component.

    1.  @JenGreshamDozer The only thing my PCP will do is throw pills at me. I’m not opposed to meds per se, but I’d rather that be an informed decision and not just a “quick-fix” band-aid.
      Thanks for your words of wisdom and support, Jen. It didn’t occur to me think of it as similar to infertility in that way (but definitely as being due in part to IF). 

      1.  @Kymberli
         The meds are what scare me. Is it the stigma? The “I’m not crazy enough for drugs”, the “We don’t do that; we buck up and deal”, the fear of the ghetto broad at CVS yelling out Zoloft while looking at me? I don’t know. But I know there is something going on. I know that I’ve spoken to my PCP and she’s offered meds, gave me the script, and then I stuck it on the very bottom of my purse down there with the rancid cheerios and stuck together with gum pennies. I’m so very glad you have the support of your husband, that his one look was enough to make you pull up and evaluate, that @schmutzie set the ball rolling for you and that commercial (damn those: who does depression hurt? Everyone. commercials for being so true (shakes fist)) got you to thinking. Wherever it leads, I’m glad you’re open to becoming more aware. I’ve never had a formal diagnosis, but I know. I know. Whether I’ll get tired of feeling this way all the time, tired of the unanswered questions as to WHY I feel this way all the time, iono. I am proud of you for speaking this truth though, very proud and grateful.

        1. JenGreshamDozer

           @arnebya  @Kymberli  @schmutzie 
          I so just wrote about this for my company’s blog: http://ourhealthcaresource.com/2012/06/27/youre-good-if/
          Perfect timing! It took a long time for me to start taking meds for my fibromyalgia. My husband still questions why I have to take it for the rest of my life. “Taking pills is bad.” My response:”I’m not snorting it and buying it from a guy around the corner. My highly educated doctor prescribed this and is managing it.”

        2.  @JenGreshamDozer  @arnebya  @schmutzie I loved your article, and it was big of you to admit your misstep in gloating over not needing any meds. 

  4. Aww pal, all the cool kids wear the gray D pinned to their shirts. We create! We love! We wonder why we can’t always see things in color. We wonder if our spark is worth fighting for all the goddamned time. On our strong days we know it is. At other times, not so much. But the greatest thing about this little post here is that you’re talking about it. It’s real. It’s common. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It has a name. And by acknowledging it you’re in for a world of good not only for yourself but for the legions of people out there that you can reach and do good for simply, SIMPLY, by talking about it.

  5. Dude. I see so much of myself in this post. About a month ago I started going to see a psychiatrist for what I finally admitted to myself was depression (which has been around for perhaps as long as 10-15 years). When you say “a certain degree of depression,” I know what that feels like. I was able to start coming to terms with this when I discovered something called dysthymia (you should look it up — I’m curious if it fits you, too); I actually have a partial post sitting in my drafts folder about it that I started a couple weeks ago. I still feel unsettled about it — like I’m oversimplifying things to think that this weight I’ve been carrying is just an imbalance of chemicals, a little disappointed and embarrassed that I haven’t been able to pull myself out of it (I know I shouldn’t feel like that — this is still a work in progress), and lots of other angsty stuff — but after my first appointment I left the office feeling lighter because I had the start of a plan to feel — to BE — Better.I hope this admission gets you on a path to Better, too.

    1.  @shinkick BLINK. I looked it up and holy shizz. Once I figure out how I’m going to deal with this, I’m definitely going to bring this up with whoever it is I end up talking to. I hope you get the courage to finish up the post that’s sitting in your drafts. Thanks for reaching out, girl. I really does help to know that it’s not just me.

  6. Depression is a very real and ugly thing. I’ve been dealing with it, on and off, for half I my life. I’m sorry you have to deal with it too, but naming it is half the battle. Let me know if you need any advice or support. I’m always here.

  7. Thank you for being brave, and for posting this.
    It’s funny … or maybe not funny … three of the bloggers I follow have posted about depression this week, and I am trying to work up the courage to say the word myself.  I have been struggling with this for months now, and sometimes it’s just background noise, and sometimes it spirals out of control and I’m living in what feels like a deep hole.  I know that there is no shame in it; it’s more the “well shit, now what” that looms large in front of me.Sending you love, and hoping that you will continue to share the journey.  Because some of us may go there, too.

    1.  @jlevine Thanks so much for what you’ve said here, jlevine. “…sometimes it’s just background noise.” <— THAT. I always reasoned that it couldn’t be depression if I with effort, I could put those feelings on the backburner and not pay any attention to them. I think I’m only now beginning to realize that the fact that I have make that effort at all is a sign that it might really be depression. It’s taken me forever to write this and build the courage to actually post it. I did it in part because I needed to make myself accountable to it. I do have that “well shit, now what” sensation. I had that before, but at least now I feel like I’m pointed in the right direction. Hugs to you as you muster up your own strength to say those words out loud. xoxo 

  8. 2manyfish2fry

    Brave, brave post and I’m reading it with tears streaming down my face. Since the kids have been out of school for summer, I have really been struggling and these symptoms ring a lot of bells. Thank you for being so honest. I think you’re helping a lot of people with this tonight. Sending hugs to you. 

    1.  @2manyfish2fry I’m sending hugs right back to you. If this post helps even one person, then putting this out there has already made it worth it. xoxo

  9. I’m trying to think of something to say that’s encouraging, but not trite.  All I can come up with is that I’m sending you good thoughts and hugs. Also, I’m glad that Frank had the wherewithal and guts to help you realize you’re struggling with depression–a lot of spouses out there won’t say anything, for fear of angering or hurting their partner.
    Thanks for being gangsta enough to put this out there, for others to read.  If there’s anything I’ve learned when it comes to depression, it’s that having others to talk to about it, who understand it because they are (or have been) there, makes it a little easier to bear. 

    1.  @ButterflyDream “If there’s anything I’ve learned when it comes to depression, it’s that having others to talk to about it, who understand it because they are (or have been) there, makes it a little easier to bear. ” As of yesterday, I’m learning that. xoxo Thanks for being one of those who are there to help make it a little easier.

  10. This post made me feel like I’d swallowed a tray of ice cubes.  And that’s a good thing.  (not the swallowing the ice cubes part, the fact that your writing is so incredibly vivid).  And, as you know, I’ve been there.
    Looking forward to the rest of this series.  Because self-doubt — I haz it. 

    1.  @niobee Make sure you take the time to watch @schmutzie ‘s video. Those ten tips for moving through self-doubt is like a pocketful of shiny mantra marbles. 

  11. Oh oh oh….and just for reference errbody, drugs don’t just fix the problem. If your physician will only see you for med checks and doesn’t direct you to a therapist then you need a new physician. Drugs make a world of difference to many people but you must not believe that if you take a pill you will be farting rainbows because you won’t. And then you’ll be extra depressed because it wasn’t the magic fix it was supposed to be. And also because literally farting a rainbows would be reality TV gold.

    1.  @OnBlank If I could take a pill and fart rainbow (like for real), I totally would, which is saying something, because I am deeply anti-self-fart even though I think fart humor is hilarious. It’s so funny that you’re saying this, because the part 2 post that I’m working on right now touches on this topic. (and how much do I love you for saying “errbody”?) 

  12. whole lotta love headed your way. happy you can look it in the eye and call it what it is or may be. big step, my friend. xo

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  14. Can’t I just move back and tell you everything will be ok?  I hate that I am so far away, today more than ever.  

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  16. I am sorry your comments got eaten. That’s really rotten. I’ve actually had this tab open for days, wanting to say something profound, but feeling like I lacked the time to, I don’t think I have it now, but I had lived with it for a while some years ago, after an illness that stretched in time and captured my brain. Knowing how bad it can be, I am so glad Frank spoke up, and I am so glad you listened to him and to yourself, That’s totally gangsta. I am pulling for you and hoping things start getting better for you soon.

  17. Linked up to this post through Truth and Cake and I’m so glad I did. This is a beautifully written post because of it’s honesty and truth. I can exactly relate to “not sitting around weeping into my Cheerios” but knowing deep down, in the places we don’t often talk about, that something is off.

    Thank you for sharing this and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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  19. Love you. Love your honesty. I know I haven’t been around the blogosphere much lately, but please know that I continue to be awed by you. Wishing you peace my friend.

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